Flagging Red Flags

For a moment, pretend you’re back in high school: a few years of your life riddled with teenage angst, whirling hormones and more concern about who is or isn’t talking to you than anything else. Undoubtedly, no matter what crowd you ran in, there was some amount of jostling for rank, and ostracization from other groups. It is the nature of the age. There was also a fair bit of bullying, maybe some name calling, and probably some empty threats along the lines of “I’m going to kill you.” Even after Columbine, these threats weren’t taken as actual threats of death, just maybe some violence or, as more likely than not, as an expression of extreme anger. Cue today’s high school climate and a phrase like “I’m going to kill you,” will see you suspended and receiving psychiatric care. And in California, you might even lose any firearm permits you have and be forced to turn in any firearms you own.

A while back, I mentioned how unsafe the NY SAFE Act was; how it discourages people from seeking mental counseling as it allows doctors (or any number of professional health professionals) the ability to inform the police department that the patient is a potential danger to themselves or others around them. In turn, the police then add the patient to a state database and revoke any firearm permits or licenses they may have – as well as any weapons they may have. Well, a few days ago, the California State Assembly advanced a bill that would expand the list of individuals able to “red flag” a “dangerous” gun owner to include employers, co-workers, and college and high school staff at a school the individual in question attended in the last six months. Previously in California, an individual could be red flagged by roommates, family members and law enforcement officers.

redflagThis might not seem like a big deal, but think about how big and how quickly the list of red flaggers grew. It went from roommates, family, and law enforcement officers (LEOs) to include an entire high school staff. And let’s face it, when you start to include school faculty like guidance counselors and teachers, you are essentially including the students. In today’s public school climate of “microaggressions” and constant appeals to authority to rectify any slightly questionable situations, this is a very dangerous movement. Consider that I feel threatened by you for looking at me angrily in PE class, and maybe I think you pitched the kickball too hard, well now I can go to any employee of the school and report you. That may not seem like much – there is a big gap between reporting a student and confiscating firearms, but let’s look at history and see how quickly these gaps are bridged when the public psyche becomes wrapped into irrational fervor.

Let those witches hang!

Let’s look to the Salem Witch Trials, or The Red Scare. Both of those instances where ignited by false accusations which then led to fear in the public psyche which then led to unfair trials and death or imprisonment for those accused. I’m not sure anyone would look back at the Salem Witch Trials and proclaim they were justified. And while the Red Scare might have a few who still think McCarthy was a swell guy, the vast majority of us can look at it and recognize that many people’s careers were ruined. We recognize now that these accusations were based on fear and society allowed their fear to dictate their legislation. If those examples are too long ago, look back to the 1980s, and early 1990s.

During the 80s there was something of a scare when a day care was accused of abusing children and participating in Satanic Rituals. Just like our other examples, this fear got caught up in the public mind and soon day cares across the US where being accused of abusing children, some adults went to jail (later some convictions were overturned), but a good number had their lives ruined, all because a mother with schizophrenia made a false allegation, investigators latched on, the children were manipulated, and the public cried out. We can look at this and believe that maybe one day care in America could allow something like this to happen, but it became wide spread, and we failed to use our logical minds to stop the non-sense. Instead we allowed fear to rule.

This is exactly what is going to happen in California. As soon as students recognize that Redneck Bobby, who smells like cow manure and is repeating tenth grade for the second time and lives a lifestyle that is scary or unagreeable to them will have to change his lifestyle if he loses his firearms because the counselors or teachers see Redneck Bobby as “dangerous,” students will jump, consciously or not. This is extremely problematic and it is exactly the way you can legislate a lifestyle out of existence. Of course, California says they will only keep firearms for six to twelve months, but consider that the individual in question will have to pass some mental battery that probably isn’t necessary. Also consider how easy it is to get your assets back after faulty civil asset forfeiture. (It’s not going to happen!)

Don’t forget that it doesn’t just have to be students that can report another student to a teacher, it can be a teacher initiating the report. I wish we could say that no teacher would stoop to using something like these red flag laws to target a student for any given reason, but we all know we cannot, again, consciously or not. Rumors are just as easily spread through the faculty room as the cafeteria, and once rumors start flying, the truth can become very difficult to ascertain, especially when it’s an adults belief against that of a students.

In very few situations will these red flag laws help anyone. If there is any student that is set on committing an act of violence, they will not be hindered by something like this. Rather, this will probably make them even angrier and more apt to commit violence. And the final blow? Imagine how the atmosphere of a school will change once one student get’s flagged. An already angst ridden building will be filled with students with even more disdain for teachers and fellow classmates, there will be a complete lack of trust for anyone, a constant looking over the shoulder, a forced secrecy lest something you say be taken the wrong way. These red flag laws are absolutely abhorrent, and it is only a matter of time before the state starts using these red flag laws to inhibit a citizen’s other natural rights.

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