Who Do Red Flag Laws Affect?
Red flag laws are a more recent addition to the roster of policies aimed at proactively preventing gun violence and protecting those who may be a danger to themselves and/or to others.
But not everyone is in full support of such laws, as they may be interpreted as a violation of one’s 2nd Amendment rights. In particular, veterans have displayed a strong pushback against the notion of red flag laws.
This pushback is not unwarranted. With veteran suicides reaching alarming numbers, much legislation has, in some cases inadvertently, affected veterans’ access to firearms due to mental health diagnoses.
Indeed, for many years veterans have struggled to prove their stability in order to remain off the FBI’s watch list for potential danger as a firearm owner. In working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, over 150,000 veterans have been flagged in the FBI’s registry of those who should have restricted access to firearms. Reasons for these restrictions are primarily due to mental health diagnoses or a determination that the individual lacks “mental capacity” to handle their own affairs, including gun ownership.
So it comes as no surprise that red flag laws may seem to fall in the same line as some legislation that preceded them.
In 2016, a study was done in Connecticut, the first state to adopt a red flag system. The intent of the study was to determine whether or not gun removal under red flag laws could be linked to a reduction in suicide numbers.
In the study of 762 gun removals from 1999 through 2013, researchers concluded that there was “one averted suicide for every ten to eleven gun seizure cases”. Overall, researchers came to the conclusion that red flag laws did serve a useful purpose in mitigating and reducing risk of suicide by firearm.
However, even research such as this is often not enough to sway the opinions of those who laws such as this affect. Veterans who struggle with PTSD, in particular, may view this type of legislation with increased trepidation. There is indeed a fine line to walk between protecting Constitutional rights, such as that to bear arms, and protecting citizens from perceived danger to themselves or others.
Many veteran advocacy groups have stood against legislation such as red flag laws due to the increased likelihood that veterans may not seek treatment for PTSD for fear of being internally labeled as a higher risk. This serves no one, and thousands of affected veterans continue to suffer in silence due to these fears.
So how, then, do these groups meet in the middle on gun safety and corresponding legislation? The debate will continue as red flag laws and other initiatives aimed at gun control continue to make their rounds at the federal and state levels of government.
At their core, red flag laws are designed as good faith measures, entrusting those closest to the individuals who may have their firearms confiscated with acting with the best interests of their family in mind. However, legislators have an uphill battle to climb when it comes to convincing veterans of the benefits of such protocol.
Suicide prevention is one of the most important topics to continue to seek a solution for. A 2016 Department of Veterans Affairs study shows that 69% of veteran suicides were carried out by firearm. Male veterans are also statistically 1.4 times more likely to commit suicide than non-veteran males. These numbers are alarming, and the process for assisting those suffering with mental health issues should be a primary focus of lawmakers and advocacy groups.
Red flag laws may not be the end all, be all solution to the issues the country faces with firearms, but “common sense” legislation such as this continues to garner a wider amount of support.