The Danger Of Trump And Gun Control Advocates Finding Common Ground With Red-Flag Laws

by William Skink

I was at a wedding recently where the topic of Medicaid in Montana came up. I offered an on-the-ground perspective from my days at the shelter watching first responders respond over and over again to the same chronically homeless individuals slowly drinking themselves to death. The cost that can accumulate from street to ER to jail then back to the street is astronomical.

The person I was talking to ended up being the family member of a current Congressional candidate. Weddings are funny like that.

It’s always nice to get positive feedback that my on-the-ground perspective is seen as having value. It’s that perspective, combined with trends I’m watching evolve, which informs my concern over a renewed push to implement red flag laws after this past weekend’s gun violence. I wonder how gun control advocates feel to suddenly have Trump signaling he could be supportive? From the link:

Trump called for laws to ensure that those “judged a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms” and declared “mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”

I wrote about red flag laws last year, when I was concerned efforts in Missoula would materialize at the State Legislature. Part of my concern comes from seeing how broken the criminal justice system already is. With Missoula’s upcoming budget process coming into focus it’s clear we already need more clerks, more cops, more city attorneys and more judges. Adjudicating the removal of firearms through a court process is no simple task. It will take more criminal justice infrastructure, and that takes more money, and we know where the money will come from.

Another very important question to ask is will red-flag laws actually work? The Parkland shooter in Florida sent out glaring signals he was leading up to massacring people, and those signals were reported to the authorities, but ignored, even by the FBI. Maybe they were too busy looking for Russians. Regardless, there is now a lawsuit:

The parents of a victim of the 2018 Parkland school shooting sued the federal government Friday, accusing the FBI of ignoring a warning about the accused gunman.

April Schentrup and Philip Schentrup said that had the FBI followed up on a tip about Nikolas Cruz, the agency could have prevented the attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead, including their daughter, Carmen Schentrup.

The lawsuit says a woman warned the FBI that Cruz planned “to slip into a school and start shooting up the place.”

“He wanted to kill people, and he had the means to do so — he had spent the last several months collecting rifles and ammunition,” the lawsuit says. “Forty days later, Mr. Cruz did just what [the] tipster warned the FBI he would do.

“If the FBI had complied with its mandatory obligations to investigate and intervene in Cruz’s plans to carry out a mass shooting at Stone Douglas High school, Cruz would not have succeeded in carrying out his attack and Carmen Schentrup would not have been killed.”

When I think of degraded institutional responsiveness in Montana I think of Adult Protective Services because of the many, many experiences I have had. If a person represents a danger to themselves or others, you would think a state agency like APS would be able to intervene, but many situations have to get incredibly bad before the County Attorney’s office, law enforcement and APS can all coordinate an intervention (this isn’t the fault of APS, but of political priorities and funding decisions).

These are the kinds of existing state institutions that will probably have some role in responding to red-flag claims. In Montana I do not think our infrastructure can, in my opinion, handle the increase in calls from every worried family member, nosy neighbor, or jilted partner.

Another parallel trend evolving alongside red-flag laws is the censoring/criminalizing of conspiracy theories and those who believe in them. The same FBI that’s obsessed with things like Russians, spying on domestic political campaigns, and entrapping mentally deficient dupes transformed into terrorists have just expanded their definition of who could be a domestic terrorist. Thanks FBI, you guys are swell. From the link:

The FBI has for the first time identified fringe conspiracy theories as a domestic terrorist threat, Yahoo News reported on Thursday.

An intelligence bulletin from the bureau’s Phoenix field office, dated May 30, 2019, has labeled “conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists,” as a growing threat — it’s the first FBI report to ever do so. According to the unclassified report, conspiracy theory-extremism has spread with the rise of the internet and social media, and is expected to worsen in 2020 presidential election.

“I’m at least glad that the FBI has come to realize that these conspiracy theories can have the power that they do,” said Heidi Beirich, director of the Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center. “The SPLC has been engaged in a decade-and-a-half battle for the federal government to understand that domestic terrorism and violence doesn’t just happen because you’re an Islamic extremist. This is certainly something the FBI should be paying attention to, and should not ignore.”

The demands for more gun control are being made while a fascist police state continues to grow under Neo-McCarthyite noses of Democrats, a police state detached from constitutional protections under the post-9/11 Bush regime, then refined under Obama. Democrats don’t seem to care anymore about the threat of America’s police state or the diminished constitutional protections we citizens expect. They don’t care about free speech, instead wanting to criminalize language and to use the power of the state to go after that guy in his parents basement because he tweets about Pizzagate and Q-Anon all day.

So go ahead and clamor for more gun control. Allow statistically rare mass-shootings to be fully exploited while ignoring a literal domestic war zone called Chicago. Ignore anything that doesn’t support the emotional appeal of your agenda, like the ability of existing laws to keep us safe and reports showing violent crime in America going down:

The two most commonly cited sources of crime statistics in the U.S. both show a substantial decline in the violent crime rate since it peaked in the early 1990s. One is an annual report by the FBI of serious crimes reported to police in approximately 18,000 jurisdictions around the country. The other is an annual survey of more than 90,000 households conducted by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, which asks Americans ages 12 and older whether they were victims of crime, regardless of whether they reported those crimes to the police.

Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 49% between 1993 and 2017. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 74% during that span. (For both studies, 2017 is the most recent full year of data.) The long-term decline in violent crime hasn’t been uninterrupted, though. The FBI, for instance, reported increases in the violent crime rate between 2004 and 2006 and again between 2014 and 2016.

Ignore it all because an American phenomenon of unhinged people shooting as many other humans as possible keeps happening and you can’t understand why.

About Travis Mateer

I'm an artist and citizen journalist living and writing in Montana. You can contact me here: willskink at yahoo dot com
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2 Responses to The Danger Of Trump And Gun Control Advocates Finding Common Ground With Red-Flag Laws

  1. Eric says:

    I understand it.

    Violence is hard-wired into our culture.

    America has had mass-murders for many, many years, it’s not a recent thing.

    Add the meth epidemic to our violent culture, and watch out.

    I’ve lived in Billings most of my life, and it seems now that stabbings and shootings are becoming weekly occurrences here.

    And I agree with your opinion about red flag laws. They will do little good, yet open the door to lots of abuses. Your husband went to Vegas with his girlfriend? Report him as a loony, get him kicked off the plane and his guns confiscated until he gets his day in court.

    I think that within a decade there will be armed security checkpoints and metal detectors, at malls, public gatherings, and schools here, just like at Yankee Stadium where all 43,000 spectators go through a metal detector.

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