Rick Manning: Red Flag Laws Raise a Gigantic Red Flag

Gun Owner Tatoo Eric GayAP
Eric Gay/AP

I worked with Donald Trump’s team before he announced for the presidency on opposing the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a policy decision which put me at odds with many of my conservative friends. But defending the United States of America against a trade deal which would eviscerate our national sovereignty was worth the cost.

Today I find myself in opposition to President Trump on a pair of foundational issues – the right to keep and bear arms and due process, which both are under attack through so-called red flag laws. The sad reality is that history demonstrates that these types of well-meaning laws are too easily abused.

I do not make this choice lightly. Recently after returning from a meeting at the White House, I had lunch with a friend. A fellow patron of the restaurant overheard that I had been in the meeting and heard me say favorable things about the president, after which this unknown person approached my table and started screaming invective at me. Even as his two young boys pleaded with and pulled on Dad trying to get him to leave, this self-proclaimed Georgetown Law grad continued his screaming rant as spittle flew from his foaming mouth. Along the way, he expressed the opinion that I and everyone like me should die, along with other lovely bits of wisdom.

Online and media crazies declaring all supporters of Donald Trump to be Nazis can be discounted as a legitimate threat to the safety of those of us who have historically supported the president, but when someone who ostensibly is well educated and part of the legal system completely loses it simply because of the existence of a Donald Trump supporter in his midst, that is a red flag.

Another red flag is the abuse of the FISA Court by politically motivated high-ranking FBI officials who launched a three year witch hunt of Donald Trump using “unverified and salacious” opposition research, with the help of a complicit media, in an attempt to initially influence and then overturn the results of the 2016 election. If the president of the United States is not safe from politically motivated abuse of the prosecutorial system, how can the average citizen trust that a law allowing legal “temporary” confiscation of firearms using “expedited due process” won’t be abused by every risk averse and politically motivated prosecutor in America?

Almost thirty years ago, when I was the state lobbyist for the National Rifle Association handling New Jersey, I saw and fought against law enforcement’s abuse of that state’s gun laws. I remember the woman in her twenties who was not allowed to purchase a handgun by local law enforcement for five years until she won a court decision — all because she made the mistake of calling a suicide hotline one time when she was 16 and her parents were going through a divorce. That single call was viewed as a red flag and an excuse to deny her a handgun permit.

And today, I see Democrat presidential candidate after Democrat presidential candidate promising to ban and confiscate guns. And I see President Donald Trump supporting a red flag law which will lay the groundwork for them to do it.

In a world where supporting Donald Trump is a red flag for the left, it is both politically and from a policy perspective disastrous for President Trump to support any red flag confiscation measure, no matter the purported “expedited due process” safeguard. In New York City, a MAGA hat wearing gallery owner was beaten for simply wearing the hat. In Miami, a black man wearing a MAGA hat at the Cheesecake Factory was surrounded and threatened by restaurant employees. Trump administration officials have repeatedly been harassed and denied service at restaurants, and Democratic officials have encouraged this behavior. The obvious truth is that the left has has so demonized anyone who supports Donald Trump that no legal ground can be ceded to give these loons of the left a lawful pathway to confiscate guns. No amount of due process protection will matter to those who believe that all Trump supporters are Nazis and hence all Trump supporters are evil and should be stripped of their rights.

Unfortunately, we don’t have to speculate about the inevitable outcome of red flag laws, as fifteen states have adopted them, including Maryland where I reside. Last November, in the county just north of my residence, police decided to execute a “red flag” warrant at 5:17 a.m., and the predictable result was that the subject of the warrant ended up dead from a police bullet. The dead gun owner was unavailable to contest the police version of the shooting.

Red flag laws are designed to confiscate a person’s legally held property under the presumption that they may misuse that property in the future. And given that the accusation itself is that the accused has the possibility of doing violence to themselves or others, even the most well-intentioned prosecutor and law enforcement agents will err on the side of denying the rights of the accused due to the fear that the accusation may prove correct – and failure to aggressively enforce the law will be devastating to their personal careers regardless of the credibility of the complaint. The accused is then required to prove that the accusation is wrong with those sitting in judgment facing enormous political pressure to leave confiscation orders in place, destroying the presumption of innocence. What’s more, in today’s Internet age, the accused forever will be tainted by the accusation regardless of outcome.

America witnessed this type of reputational assassination by accusation recently, and it is shocking that GOP politicians who witnessed the wild accusations levied against Justice Brett Kavanaugh are at all open to the idea that a federal gun confiscation law should be put in place that has at best only a fig leaf of due process protection.

And for this Trump supporter, the continuing push by this president in support of gun confiscation language serves as perhaps the biggest red flag of all.

Rick Manning is the president of Americans for Limited Government.

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