Gun Confiscation for Dummies: ‘Red Flag’ Laws are Virtual SWATing

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By Tom Vaughn MD

‘Red Flag Gun Laws’, or ‘Gun Violence Restraining Orders’ are becoming increasingly popular among opponents of the right to keep and bear arms. Politicians from both major parties seem anxious to use these laws strip Americans of their right to armed self-defense guaranteed by the Second Amendment, as well as their right to due process, guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.

The premise of these laws is that individuals who are believed by others close to them to present an imminent risk for committing suicide or violence against others can be stripped of their right to have firearms.  Typically, such action requires just a complaint, subject only to judicial review, without informing the subject of the complaint or allow him/her the opportunity to respond prior to firearm confiscation.

If approved by the judge, armed government agents are dispatched to seize firearms from the accused.  Unsurprisingly, executing these orders can lead to violence and tragedy (as in Maryland recently).  Unfortunately, these laws are misguided—or represent misdirection—and fail on multiple levels.

First and foremost, how such a scheme denies the accused’s right to due process is obvious. From the Fifth Amendment: “No person shall . . . be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.”   Subjecting these complaints to unilateral judicial review without allowing the accused an opportunity to hear the complaint and respond, or even be notified of the proceedings, before dispatching law enforcement amounts to glorified SWAT-ing.

Further, these ‘GVROs’ allow government intervention based on the suspicions and claims of laypersons. Even experienced professionals specializing in mental health have extremely limited ability to reliability gauge suicide risk—family and law enforcement officers with little to no training have even less chance of making accurate predictions.

Similarly, psychologically based violent behavior—as opposed to politically motivated violence, or the actions of those with a history of repeated criminal violent conduct—cannot be predicted reliably even by psychiatric professionals.

To be sure, there are potentially dangerous individuals roaming these United States—though the government has an extremely poor record of interceding proactively to defend law-abiding citizens.  Gun control laws in particular have a well-established history of endangering rather than protecting Americans from violent people.

To protect innocents from such individuals, we should have a legal framework in place which would allow intervention with high risk individuals prior to the commission of heinous irrevocable acts.  But it must be done in ways that respect subjects’ right to due process and that insures the greatest likelihood of success—which highlights the most glaring problem with ‘Gun Violence Restraining Orders’.

While firearms, and handguns in particular, are the most commonly used weapons in the United States by those committing murder or suicide, about 1/3 of all homicides and about half of all suicides in this country are completed without the use of firearms.  It defies common sense to claim that individuals present such imminent risk to themselves or others that emergency intervention must be undertaken, but that only minimally impedes their ability to complete an act of violence by denying them only one means.

If we even could reliably predict who is about to commit suicide or homicide, the only logical response would be to completely restrict all potential means for completing those acts.

The process to accomplish that is arrest and detention, with urgent psychiatric evaluation and treatment when indicated.  In California, for example, prior to passage of a ‘Red Flag Law’ (AB 1014) in 2014, the state had already had a statute on the books for nearly 50 years allowing individuals deemed at extreme risk to be detained for evaluation for 72 hours (Welfare & Institutions Code § 5150, passed as part of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act of 1967).

This incongruity begs the question as to why politicians’ and other gun-grabbers’ chosen remedy is to seize guns. The only logical conclusion is that their primary goal is not to protect people, but rather to use the excuse to confiscate firearms.

red flag law

Legal standards for arrest and incarceration or other confinement are usually quite stringent.  The vague concerns of disgruntled relatives are normally not considered sufficient—though politicians appear keenly interested in expanding the pool of eligible complainants.  The California statute at least requires that such individuals, once detained, must be evaluated and adjudicated a danger or be released within a brief proscribed period of time.  If at that point they are deemed a risk to themselves or others, restricting their Second Amendment rights would be in keeping with Heller.

Many politicians of both parties and other government officials would be happy to appear in a photo-op with a pile of what they claim are ‘guns removed from dangerous individuals’.  However, ask them to line up with a group of falsely accused citizens, removed from their homes at gunpoint and incarcerated, subjected to mental health evaluations and/or charged with ‘Pre-crime’ by a star chamber consisting of a niece who thought they were ‘a little off’ and a judge who is likely to be more afraid of not looking ‘tough on crime’ than of trampling on the Bill of Rights.  That glad-handing lineup is going to be pretty darn short.

If individuals in our society truly present an imminent risk to themselves or others, then a tightly controlled process—such as California’s 1967 statute—is needed that would allow for emergency detention and professional assessment.  This would be a meaningful response that might actually avert tragedies.

If someone sends a letter to the local paper threatening to commit mass murder, I guarantee that local law enforcement response will NOT be restricted to collecting their firearms.  That individual will also be detained, and law enforcement may not stop at arresting them—they may even confiscate guns from their relatives.

‘Red-Flag Gun Laws’ and ‘GVROs’ are lies.  The real goal of these laws is not to protect anyone, except politicians whose fears center on re-election.  They are predicated on a series of false premises:

  • that lay people can predict violent behavior,
  • that just taking guns away from dangerous individuals sufficiently mitigates the threat of suicide and homicide,
  • that such individuals cannot easily hide firearms already in their possession from authorities (or simply acquire new ones via the black market),
  • and, that there isn’t a more logical and effective way to address well-founded concerns about people who present a risk of imminent violence.

Most importantly, they are based on the false premise that government can protect society effectively by imposing such anti-liberty interventions.

These are the same governments capable of twisting itself into such knots over an ill-conceived PR campaign that it failed to preempt a flagrantly dangerous individual whose home they had been called to dozens of times. The same governments that then failed to follow-up on a specific tip about him potentially attacking a school; government incapable that did not respond definitively when the same individual, known to on-site security as a ‘likely school shooter’, was seen on video carrying a ‘rifle case’ across a campus from which he had been barred.

It’s the same governments that issued ‘stand down and wait’ orders to brave officers ready to rush in risking death for a chance to save children they didn’t know; government whose response to the multiple failures that contributed to such carnage was to reassert its lack of duty to intercede in such cases.

Governments like that should instead be charged with operating a legalized SWAT-ing scheme to respond to ‘pre-crime’ without even the advantage of Phillip K. Dick’s ‘Pre-cogs’.

Too many Americans are ready and willing, even eager, to sacrifice their individual liberties for the illusion of security—but it is really someone else’s liberty they’re willing to sacrifice.  And too many politicians—of both parties—see their own political careers as the only moral imperative, and view logic, Americans’ civil rights, and the U.S. Constitution as little more than inconvenient impediments.


Tom Vaughan, MD is a neuroradiologist in private practice in Louisville, KY. He is a shooting enthusiast who believes in individual liberty and personal responsibility.

This article originally appeared at and is reprinted here with permission. 

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  1. That Maryland incident, its shameful. Cops do not need to be serving red-flag orders, they need to be served by mental health professionals who can work to deescalate and control the situation and do an on site evaluation. The case needs to be looked at and the source of the information needs to be considered biased and make them prove their accusations before any order is issued and the red-flag person given immediate legal representation and the right to go before a judge to have their case heard then before anything else is done including gun confiscation.

    The cops can go along just in case, but let the metal health professionals serve and do the work. Cops tend to serve these things in ways that force people into mind sets that are opposing defensive especially when they do not see their selves as having done anything wrong or they feel threatened. Ya got a guy with alleged mental health issues and hes got cops all over him, but the cops are going to serve the order and expect him to understand and not feel threatened or defensive?

    Come on, these are mental health issues at their root they serve these things for so these people at the time if there are true mental health issues are probably not thinking rationally and you think they are always going to be nice and understand because its a cop doing the serving? No, they are going to be defensive and threatened, and what happens when they act that way in their mind for self-preservation – they get hurt or killed by cops.

    • “Cops do not need to be serving red-flag orders, they need to be served by mental health professionals who can work to deescalate and control the situation and do an on site evaluation.“

      You’ve just done a good job of articulating the actual position of those who are often attacked because some claim they want to ‘defund the police’.

      Apparently, many LEO have difficulty differentiating between those with mental disturbances and actual criminals, the shooting of the autistic kid’s caseworker is an excellent example.

      “Typically, such action requires just a complaint, subject only to judicial review“

      This is true of search warrants under the constitution, the big difference is that an officer must swear or affirm before a judge that he has probable cause to believe evidence of a crime is present.

      Just make those who initiate a red flag complaint testify under oath as to the reasons for their complaint, with the usual penalties for perjury and false swearing.

  2. I don’t believe you. These laws are already in place so it should be easy enough to tally up the stats. How many times have red flags been issued? Of those, how many were cases of SWATing or some other abuse of the law?

    Don’t do what Liberals do and make all about the “feels”.

    I suspect these laws are being used correctly and fairly, so convince me with documented evidence of systemic problems.

    • There is zero proof required to make the claim.

      All it takes is a woman making a claim, and the guns are *gone*. And since we know, women never lie about rape, then obviously their claims must be taken at face value.

      There are many documented cases of women lying about rape. A simple extension of logic leads to the same about false GVROs.

      Right, leftist scum? 🙂

        • Keep dreaming, little boy.

          The way you are so obsessed with my sex life indicate very serious issues with your own. As you are on record here in TTAG wishing I had a GVRO issued on me makes you a dangerous stalker… 🙂

    • Every single one is an abuse of the law. As documentation I submit the Constitution of The United States of America. Fuck you!

    • red flag laws are not always called or classed as red flag laws.

      The concept of “red flag” laws are sometimes executed under the guise of other laws or excuses or as part of something else as a ‘procedure’. For example, Caniglia v. Strom, the Supreme Court held that the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement does not extend to the home.

      “community caretaking” was the most often used excuse used by police to enter a home and take a person or “things” with or without warrant or court order. Its still done many times a day across the U.S. and all it takes is a phone call and there is zero proof.

      Another example; Sometimes they are not called ‘red flag laws’, sometimes they are called things without a specific law naming them but gives permission for a certain process, for example “psychiatric hold” that in most cases is exercised simp0ly because the police go to a judge without any proof and just request an order.

      Another example; Police traffic stops for simply being on city streets in hours of darkness late at night are very common in some areas. Aside from the obvious (sometimes) unconstitutional nature, these are considered as “crime prevention” measures but a person, without court order or warrant, can be held to ensure they are not a danger (in the form of crime) to others juts because the police want to do it.

      There are many such examples, and they are done thousands of times a day across the U.S..

      • to add:

        and of course just flat out gun confiscation in the name of “public safety” like what happened in New Orleans is yet another example of the “red flag law’ concept in the guise of something else.

        There are thousands of red flag law concept incidents every day in some form all across the U.S.

        A red flag law that considered a red flag law may not violate the Second Amendment, but jurisdictions tend to want to skirt any issues with executing a red flag law in every day existence by exercising red flag law concepts in the guise of something else.

        @ Cries The Right

        I cam not believe that someone today would ask for proof documentation of something that’s basically around them (in society at large) every day with all the sources of information we have today. Its like asking for proof documentation that its raining out side while standing in the rain outside – just stupid people.

      • ““community caretaking” was the most often used excuse used by police to enter a home and take a person or “things” with or without warrant or court order. Its still done many times a day across the U.S. and all it takes is a phone call and there is zero proof. ”

        I said “was”, its actually not “was” and still “is”, they lump it under the guise of “public safety” to get around that pesky thing called the Constitution.

  3. The tragedy in Maryland is the only example needed of why these laws should not be allowed practically. However, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights is the reason that should not be allowed at all.

    But what about other examples? Not every nail needs a hammer. This is a tool that too many are eager to use and very few have the instruction and training.

  4. Let’s think about it, if someone were truly suicidal and their firearms are confiscated what would they do? Well suicide by cop is pretty effective, although a bit traumatic for the officer(s) involved.
    Disclaimer – I am not advocating pointing a cell phone at an officer with a drawn gun.

  5. What’s even more egregious is seizing all of a households firearms because one demented 15yo member of that household took daddy’s 9mm Sig to school and shot the place up. What gives the cops the right to seize any other weapons when they already have the gun that kid used, thereby leaving the rest of the family defenseless?

    • “What’s even more egregious is seizing all of a households firearms because one demented 15yo member of that household took daddy’s 9mm Sig to school and shot the place up“

      Are you serious?

      Because daddy bought the Sig for him 4 days before he massacred those children and might just do the same thing for him once that kid gets out on bond?

      Because at the very least, the parents demonstrated criminal negligence by allowing the 15 year old with known mental disturbances to have apparently easy access to a lethal weapon?

  6. “This would be a meaningful response that might actually avert tragedies”

    this completely and totally misses the actual issue.

    the actual issue is national citizenship and the goodwill inherent to that. with national citizenship, laws are enforced reasonably and with respect to the institutions and the rights of citizens as fellow nationals. but the ones pushing this see themselves as the only citizens and see the rest of us as animals to be herded and corralled into serving them. they have no intention of being reasonable, of tolerating checks and balances against them. they see themselves as being the law itself. they’re after power, and they mean it. any law you pass they’ll immediately harness the power of thousands of lawyers and billions of unaudited dollars to subvert, bypass, and/or overturn, even if it takes decades.

    the problem isn’t any law. the problem is those people.

    • The problem is to many laws. Don’t like something, make a law, scared of something, make a law. Grow up. Stay out of other peoples business and mind your own. Leftists just can’t do that though.

    • Nice incorporation of an Ayn Rand quote: “they’re after power and they mean it”. 🙂

      To save folks the trouble of looking it up:

      “Did you really think we want those laws observed?” said Dr. Ferris. “We want them to be broken. You’d better get it straight that it’s not a bunch of boy scouts you’re up against… We’re after power and we mean it… There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws. Who wants a nation of law-abiding citizens? What’s there in that for anyone? But just pass the kind of laws that can neither be observed nor enforced or objectively interpreted – and you create a nation of law-breakers – and then you cash in on guilt. Now that’s the system, Mr. Reardon, that’s the game, and once you understand it, you’ll be much easier to deal with.”

  7. Red flag laws could be a good thing if not exploited.
    Same as the domestic violence.
    It’ll turn in to a gunm grab with no return.
    One things for sure, if the nut doctor wants to find something wrong with you he will. Ironicatbest the nut doctor is usually more fcked up then you are.

  8. WSJ: Red-flag laws’ use doesn’t fall along political lines. Authorities use them sparingly or frequently in counties run by Republicans and cities with Democratic mayors.

    “When there’s someone out here running around threatening to kill people and I have a tool at my disposal and I don’t use it, I have a professional and political liability for not using it,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, who describes himself as a conservative Second Amendment supporter.

    Sheriff Judd’s agency has a lawyer dedicated to filing red-flag petitions, and his office reviews all violent-crime arrests to see whether the law can be used.

  9. “In other news, today, Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle Association, was seen exiting a $40 million Gulfstream G650 jet at the exclusive republican-only Island Reef Club in the Florida keys along with his buddy, “governor” Ron DeSatan….”

  10. I saw the paycheck which was of $9282, I didn’t believe that my mom in-law was like truly enring money part time from their computer.. there neighbor started doing this 4 only 21 months and recently paid for the on their home and got Maserati.
    more info here……………….>>>>

  11. An interesting “feature” of these Red Flag laws occurred to a guy I know in Colorado. “Someone” reported him for being a potential threat. The GVRO was issued and he was paid a visit from the local police. His firearms were confiscated, mostly from his two safes. Most of his firearms were purchased or acquired in private sales prior to 2013 and there was no record or knowledge of his ownership of these firearms prior to being confiscated. They also confiscated all of his ammo, magazines and many of his firearms accessories that were attached to his weapons. The accessories, such as scopes, sometimes cost more than the firearms.

    Later, when it was determined to be a false accusation from a disgruntled former “roommate”, the GVRO was rescinded. The firearms were returned, however, the accused was forced to complete a 4473 for each firearm to be returned. All of his “undocumented” firearms were now catalogued and now a part of an (un)official database. Most of his ammo was returned, as well as his accessories. All of his 15+ round magazines were not returned, as they could not be “transferred” to him, in accordance with Colorado law.

    In total, he lost thousands of dollars in private property, a sizable amount paid in attorney and court fees and a complete violation of his civil rights. Red Flag Laws, working as designed.


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