Exclusive: ‘Sending People Home To Die,’ The Truth About Red Flag Laws

A Red Flag law that doesn’t treat mental illness isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. It’s just a confiscation scheme. Hey moms, if you really want to save lives, demand action on mental health treatment for folks who are an “extreme risk” to themselves or others.  Just like confiscating beer from an alcoholic doesn’t treat his addiction, taking guns away from suicidal or homicidal individuals doesn’t fix their personal and cognitive woes.  Use the “common sense” you’re constantly imploring pro-gunners to employ. (Photo: MA Moms Demand Action)

On Tuesday, I had a chance to catch up with Jim Wallace from Gun Owners Action League (GOAL). Jim is the Executive Director of GOAL. Our conversation centered around the deeply misguided Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) bill, also known as a “Red Flag” bill, wending its way through the Massachusetts Legislature.

If you’re not familiar with ERPOs, they are a way for the government to confiscate firearms from purportedly troubled individuals. In an ideal world, they function like this. A concerned friend or family member or a law enforcement officer petitions a court to seize an individual’s firearms on the basis that the person is a threat to themselves or others. Evidence to substantiate that claim is provided to a judge and that judge makes a decision on whether authorities need to intervene and confiscate.

Under most ERPOs there is a timely appeal process for the defendant, usually within 10 days. If the individual feels as though he has been wrongly accused he or she can ask for a hearing to make a case as to the state of his or her well being and present evidence that everything is copacetic. If the judge agrees, the firearms are returned. If not, the firearms remain in the possession of the state until the ERPO expires or indefinitely depending on the case.

SEE ALSO: NY Lawmakers Push ERPO Bill to Make Confiscation Easier

The ostensible goal of an ERPO is to disarm those who need to be disarmed while respecting the rights, including Due Process, of the falsely accused. It’s a win-win for everyone. Except that it isn’t. There are considerable flaws to ERPOs, including one that Jim is fully cognizant of and one that the Massachusetts Legislature refuses to acknowledge. They are strictly a confiscation scheme.  They provide no mental health treatment or supervision or intervention to those who truly need it. The sole focus is on taking guns.  It would be like a bomb squad only concerning itself with silencing the ticking on a ticking time bomb as opposed to fully defusing it.

Consider this, as Jim explained. You’re a suicidal individual. You’re on the edge. Suddenly, authorities are knocking at your door. You’re confused. Your neighbors are wondering what’s going on, they’re watching from their windows. Your new girlfriend’s over, she had no idea about your depression. After the cops take your guns, she leaves without saying a word. Police bring you in for an evaluation. You don’t seem that bad, so they cut you loose. The question is how do you handle this embarrassment. Given your fragile state, who knows how you’ll respond. The reality is that just because they took your guns doesn’t mean that you still can’t end your life. Fact: Most suicides in Massachusetts don’t involve a firearm (93 percent of women and 78 percent of men do not use a gun), according to the state Department of Public Health. You have a car, you have knives in the kitchen and chemicals under the sink. The reality is that your house is still a hazard because the state, in its myopic quest to seize tools that go bang, forgot about the most important piece to the equation: you.

“You’re sending people home to die,” said Jim. That’s the reality of a Red Flag law that fixates on confiscation and says nothing about treatment. To its credit, GOAL offered a counterproposal to the ERPO bill that would shift the focus to the individual, one that offered a suicide prevention hotline, wellness check-ups, medical care and more. But imagine this. It was roundly rejected by lawmakers

“I think it’s really important not to conflate mental health with what we’re trying to do,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker, the sponsor of the bill, in a State House News Service article. She said that the ERPO was “one tool” to limit “suicide and mass casualty events.”

That statement alone makes one question the sanity of the politicians in Massachusetts. How can a bill designed to stop people deemed by the state to be “extreme risks” due to mental illness not be primarily concerned with treating mental illness?  Makes zero sense.  It would be like creating a law to stop addicts that mentions nothing about treating addiction.  You’re an alcoholic.  We’re just going to confiscate your beer.  That’ll fix ya!

The truth is, as mentioned, taking guns away from suicidal or homicidal individuals does not make them any less dangerous to themselves and others. Cars, knives, baseball bats, and even stolen guns from neighbors or family members can all be used by that troubled individual to take lives.

SEE ALSO: Massachusetts Police Seize 65-Year-Old’s Gun Collection for ‘Improper Storage’

GOAL came to the table with solutions that would work toward fixing broken people. But Bay State politicians don’t want any part of it. They’re happy with gun confiscation as the end all be all for treating troubled people.

What’s also fascinating, maybe ironic even, and Jim mentioned this, is that authorities in Massachusetts have a half dozen or so ways to confiscate guns already. Local cops can take a concealed carrier’s guns at the drop of a hat under the License to Carry “suitability clause.” Firearm Identification cards can also be revoked by authorities for any number of reasons. Plus, longstanding laws allow the state to remove guns from people who have been committed involuntarily for mental health or substance abuse. Point being, Red Flag confiscation is completely redundant.

Anyways, the House has passed Decker’s shortsighted bill. It’s expected to head to the Senate in the coming weeks before the end of the session in July.  And if you think this contagion is only endemic to Mass., you’d be wrong.  Congressional lawmakers, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC),  have introduced the bipartisan Red Flag Law, S. 2521.  Maybe the final draft of the federal version will be more comprehensive.  But I wouldn’t hold my breath.

I want to thank Jim for taking the time to talk to me. If you’re a Bay Stater, make sure to support GOAL. They’re on the frontlines fighting the good fight.

About the author: S.H. Blannelberry is the News Editor of GunsAmerica.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Jaque August 2, 2018, 11:25 am

    This is but one more tool in the citizen disarmament toolbox. Its not about removing dangerous people from society. Or preventing suicides by firearm. No no no. Criminals and gang members are protected by the constitution but not persons suspected of becoming violent. Suspected but not proven. And by anonymous reporting to police.

    Cops need bullet proof probable cause to get a search warrant to look for an MS 13 gangs weapons stash. But a solid citizen ? Hell No !
    Capt. Tom is a Disabled Vietnam Veteran. But if Capt. Toms neighbor calls police and reports that Tom has guns and was overheard yelling “kill the bastards.” then Tom is going to jail and his priceless collection of pistols are thrown in an evidence box damaging every one. Six weeks later and $10,000 Tom is released but the state keeps his guns. Another $5000 and 10 weeks later he gets us pistols back which are damaged and retaining less than half their former value.

    But TOM hadn’t threatened anyone. He was watching a war movie at the time in his living room and was yelling at the TV, something men do.

    We are no longer free men living in constitutional Republic. Law enforcement are no longer peace officers. To Protect and To Serve is optional. The second Amendment is violated by every state and by the Federal Governnent. Anti- Terrorism laws are used as an excuse to violate the Constitution. The NDAA, FISA Courts, Secret no fly lists, and now Red Flag laws all violate Americans Constitutional rights or more accurately Constitutional restraints against the government.

    On this matter and others the NRA has failed us and so has president Trump who we believed to be solid Backer of the Second Amendment.

    Its clear that most Americans are clueless morons who are best described as useful idiots who care little about their rights. And for those of us who are active in the political process and who consistently vote for protectors of the Constitution and the Second Amendment we still see a continual erosion of all rights by the governments who we believed existed to obey the laws and to serve us.

    There has to be a point at which it is recognized that elections mean little in insuring that our rights are protected and that the march of time is only marching toward tyranny. Yes Tyranny. I think Americans will be disarmed of personal posession firearms at some point within the next 50 years. I do not see a gun owners revolt nor do I see a civil war. I think the majority of Americans have become physically and morally unfit and lazy and would not sacrifice their cushy life for a few guns. They would quickly submit to government authority no matter if lawful or not.

    I hope I am wrong. But in reviewing the loss of Americans citizen rights over the past hundred years, and todays societal direction towards Communism ( I do not believe socialism exists) and gun control I have little hope in our future as free gun owners.

  • Tommygun851 June 3, 2018, 1:59 pm

    We have the most F’d up mental health care system in the world! This is what happened to me-

    I live with chronic back pain. My family doctor gave me a non-narcotic prescription called Lyrica. He NEVER talked to me about possible side effects and under a set of odd circumstances that happened, I had a bad reaction to it. Depression and thoughts of suicide !! My therapist talked me into getting help. OMG!!! The start of the worst nightmare of my life!! They put me in a locked down facility the Psychiatric ward in the hospital!! The police shown up at my house ( 7 officers and 3 cruisers) for 6 hours terrorizing my family! I can only wonder what the neighbors were thinking! While I am in lock up, they had the court hearing and I had No way to speak at my own trial!! I could not even have a new court date because that’s how they gear things , to take away your rights and then have to fight and pay to get them back threw due process! Meanwhile, in the psych ward, they were treating me like a drug addict because I had a legal and on-going prescription to Percocet and they tried to take THAT away from me ! The whole experience was exactly like the movie “One flew over the coco’s nest”! I lost my rifles and pistols for over a year and a half and my pistol permit for over 2 years!
    It cost me almost $3,000 to get it all back through the help of a good attorney! I tried to find a lawyer to sue my doctor for mal practice no one would take the case.
    It seems to me that the system knows only one way of dealing with any situation for that matter and when they had a trial without allowing me to be there or represented by anyone, I realize” we do live in a land where justice is a game”!
    (Bob Dylan)

  • Amado leon June 2, 2018, 1:31 am

    All it is is an excuse confiscate our guns and of course let out the mental patience out to create chaos gives them more reason

  • Ray June 1, 2018, 7:04 pm

    Well now the mentally ill can always go and hang out at Starbucks . . .

  • Freedomlover June 1, 2018, 6:02 pm

    All those people smiling in the picture above as they support more feel good tyranny laws against our Second and Fifth Amendment liberties. Hopefully none of them ever need a firearm for self defense but if they do they will realize the cruel truth. Police response times are likely ten to fifteen minutes or likely longer.

  • Frank June 1, 2018, 3:38 pm

    Suicide is pandemic among teenagers in America today. If you connect the dots it’s evident that it is all about mental health not guns. Don’t blame law abiding gun owners for some teenager parents who dropped the ball on their children’s behavior.
    Americas not buying it!

    • Scotty Gunn July 7, 2018, 2:55 pm

      Social media is usually the culprit.

  • cisco kid June 1, 2018, 3:27 pm

    quote: —————————————–“You’re sending people home to die,” said Jim. That’s the reality of a Red Flag law that fixates on confiscation and says nothing about treatment. To its credit, GOAL offered a counterproposal to the ERPO bill that would shift the focus to the individual, one that offered a suicide prevention hotline, wellness check-ups, medical care and more. But imagine this. It was roundly rejected by lawmakers—————————quote

    That is the problem its cheaper to take guns away than fund mental health treatment programs. The recent Republican Tax Rape law passed lowers what little Federal money we had for Mental Health care as well as reducing Health Care Benefits in general thereby guaranteeing more mass shootings. Thank the Republicans for a sure fire way to lose all gun rights.

    “I think it’s really important not to conflate mental health with what we’re trying to do,” said Rep. Marjorie Decker, the sponsor of the bill, in a State House News Service article. She said that the ERPO was “one tool” to limit “suicide and mass casualty events.”

    That statement alone makes one question the sanity of the politicians in Massachusetts. How can a bill designed to stop people deemed by the state to be “extreme risks” due to mental illness not be primarily concerned with treating mental illness? Makes zero sense. It would be like creating a law to stop addicts that mentions nothing about treating addiction. You’re an alcoholic. We’re just going to confiscate your beer. That’ll fix ya!

    quote———————–The truth is, as mentioned, taking guns away from suicidal or homicidal individuals does not make them any less dangerous to themselves and others. Cars, knives, baseball bats, and even stolen guns from neighbors or family members can all be used by that troubled individual to take lives.—————————–quote——————

    The above is a Ridiculous statement, taking guns does indeed stop people from committing mass murder providing you vet “all” gun purchases to make sure they do not go out and buy another gun as well as safe storage laws which make it much more difficult for crooks to steal guns and then sell them on the black market. Guns that are sold without a background check find their way into the hands of the mentally ill as well as criminals because they are shipped directly to States that have tough gun control laws making all State Laws meaningless without tough Federal laws that would cover all States.

  • ivo roberts jr June 1, 2018, 9:18 am

    It is all about the money. It is cheaper to go after the guns and make head lines and WOW! the puppets but to harden schools to keep the shooter off campus and weapons out of the schools and to help with Mental Health care costs too much. They don’t want to protect your children because it would require more money.

  • joefoam June 1, 2018, 8:57 am

    My ex worked in mental health. Reagan dumped millions of mentally ill people into the streets and her office was flooded with them, to the point they were turned away. MA really doesn’t care about the mentally ill as commented above, they are only seeking a path to confiscation. The gov’t can supply an endless stream of ‘experts’ to declare you unfit. The average guy has no chance to defend himself. What was they said ‘you can’t fight City Hall’?

  • PeterC June 1, 2018, 8:09 am

    The Massachusetts legislature has made it abundantly clear…mental health is not the primary objective of this proposal. The focus is on GUNS, and how to confiscate them from citizens regardless of their mental state.

  • Draven June 1, 2018, 8:06 am

    Uh, no, the dumping of the mentally ill onto the streets happened much earlier. Try JFK.

    • Terry June 1, 2018, 8:45 am

      33 plus year as a Police officer , in an Ohio city of approx. 100,000 . We had a state mental hospital for placement of persons . Thank the ACLU for turning them loose . Watched the cities older inner city neighborhoods come apart.

  • SuperG May 31, 2018, 10:32 am

    We used to have mental health laws that protected us. Those in dire need of treatment were given mandatory 3 day evaluations and given treatment, then released when they were better. But the police abused that law and so Ronald Reagan made it go away, and in the process dumped thousands of mentally ill people onto the streets. We need those laws, and institutions back, but this time we make police departments maintain a panel of 3 on-call psychiatrists to make the call for mandatory evaluations. If we can find 13 billion dollars, twice, to build new aircraft carriers, we can find the funds to treat those citizens needing help.

    • Jaque August 2, 2018, 11:55 am

      Is it the Federal Governments responsibility to care for the sick and mentally Ill within the general population. No.

      For those that do not have healthcare insurance, then it falls to the states. Its called Medicaid.

      Few States residents vote to raise taxes for anything, particularly mental health care. I would not. Taxes are far to high now.

      As someone who has a family member with mental illness, I can attest to the lack of county or state resources to assist families. But it’s not a Federal Responsibility.

      But this article is about Red Flag Laws. I do want to see the truly dangerous persons separated from guns. Any guns. But separated from guns in a lawful manner.

      http://www.ncsl.org/documents/health/legpowers.pdf

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