‘Red Flag’ Law Should Be A Middle Ground

After spending several years in a legislative logjam, last week Governor Cuomo signed the so-called Red Flag Law. This was one of those bills that was passed in the Democratic Assembly but had no chance of being taken up by the Republican State Senate. The Democratic majority vowed to make gun regulations a priority this session, and this is likely just the beginning of more to come.

The signing triggered equally fiery responses on both sides, as gun laws always do. Typically, opponents call it a “gun confiscation” bill. Champions say it will save thousands of lives. Neither of those are liable to prove true any day soon.

I am old enough to remember six years ago when the SAFE Act passed and that meant that the Second Amendment was soon to be stripped from law-abiding citizens. Before long they said, the Government will be at your door forcing you to surrender your guns. No innocent hunters or sportsmen have lost their right to bear arms since the SAFE Act, though many still question the haste with which it was passed.

The lighting rod of this most recent law is the extreme risk protection order (ERPO) provision. Technically it is true that this could result in many guns being seized temporarily. Decent, responsible, law-abiding citizens–those who should enjoy gun rights–have nothing to worry about. The law ensures that if police or school administrators determine somebody might be potentially dangerous they can apply to a judge who can order an evaluation in three to six days. Then the judge might issue an “extreme risk protection order” up to 100 days or until they and the authorities feel the person is safe around firearms again.

It would be a great success if even one deadly shooting were prevented by teachers or friends coming together to get help for someone they are worried could do harm to themselves or others. Often we’ve heard after mass shootings, particularly in schools, the teachers and peers say they feared something was wrong with a student but not before it was too late did they act. This law doesn’t open the flood gates for mass gun confiscation. It empowers schools and law enforcement to speak up and prevent a potential tragedy.

Responsible gun owners could champion this legislation more proudly than Nancy Pelosi did in New York. It lets folks like them and other trusted members of the community protect their rights and have a say in their safety to boot.

I don’t expect that to happen because there’s big money on all sides of this equation preventing any meaningful compromise. This seems like a step in the right direction.If itt results in rogue judges ordering gun seizures we can fight to fix it. As it’s written, it doesn’t appear likely to impinge on the sacred Second Amendment.

We can address the epidemic of gun violence without fury or paranoia — two things that don’t mix well with firearms.

Derek Smith is a Frewsburg native.