Letter to the Editor: ‘Red Flag Bill’ deserves a chance

Gun rights seem to be an issue that tends to split both political parties. I believe it has more to do with urban vs. rural than Republican or Democrat. If you live in a city and see a gun, right away you have good cause to be frightened. Rural folks think their guns offer a measure of security since police or a sheriff could be quite a distance away in case of trouble. A gun is a tool for a rancher, and, for many, it is part of who they are to own guns and use them for hunting. On the other hand, there are some people that just should not have access to guns, for example, convicted felons and the mentally unstable. There are different opinions about what to do with mentally unstable people having guns. Yes, we need to improve our mental health care to help deal with the problem, but many individuals in need of that care avoid it, and not everyone is willing to financially support better mental health care.

The Red Flag Bill is a good faith measure attempting to separate the mentally unstable from guns, particularly those who might use guns in a violent act. And we have the reaction to the proposed bill, the second amendment sanctuary zones. I think both sides tend to exaggerate the outcome of this bill should it become law. On the gun rights side, immediately the reaction is “they” are trying to take my guns away. It is true that it is all too easy for someone to acquire a gun to replace one that has been confiscated. On the other side, it is not clear how many lives would be saved, since family members might be quite reluctant to attempt to have guns removed from a mentally unstable person; they might be afraid of retaliation or not even recognize the problem in a disturbed individual. 

There has been a lot of misrepresentation of the Red Flag Bill. A neighbor or disgruntled acquaintance cannot initiate an extreme protection order, ERPO. Only a family member or a law enforcement officer can petition a judge with some solid evidence to get an ERPO. A neighbor or acquaintance might call law enforcement, but then it would be the officer who would make the judgment as to whether to go to the judge or not. It is difficult for me to see how gun owners have a legitimate concern over having their guns taken away due to the Red Flag Bill. Also, some law enforcement personnel have expressed the concern over placing more officers in harm’s way with the Red Flag Bill. Unfortunately, officers are definitely at risk whether it is enforcing an ERPO or attempting to apprehend a mentally disturbed person who has already used guns to carry out a violent act. I think that giving the Red Flag Law a chance is worth it.  We need to seek a balance between individual rights and the rights of the whole. In my opinion, currently our laws favor the right to bear arms over the right to life for potential gun violence victims. I hope all of us can keep the conversation open to find ways to reduce the threat of gun violence while maintaining the rights of gun owners.

Neil Rudolph