Dear Members and Advocates,
This past weekend 31 people lost their lives in mass shootings. The cities of El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio were rocked and in the wake of the tragedies politicians and the public are scrambling to propose a “fix”. We are already familiar with the gun control debate, but if nothing changed after high school students were killed in Parkland, Florida or the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Connecticut, what more can we expect to come of that argument? Recently however, a new idea is being floated around… “red flag laws”.
Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders (ERPO), allow intervention when someone shows warning signs (red flags) that they might engage in potential violence. Since the Parkland shooting last year, the number of States with red flag laws increased from 5 to 17, but the efficacy of these laws are questionable. Ronald Honberg, a senior policy adviser for the National Alliance on Mental Illness, said on NPR that “Four percent of violence in this country is attributable to mental illness, that means 96% of violence is not.” Do we want to start red flagging a class of people knowing the overwhelming majority will never go on to commit the type of crime these laws are intended to prevent (or any crime at all)?
It’s a policy that sounds eerily akin to the sex offender registry. You have laws that are passed in the wake of an extremely rare, but horrific, tragedy and without much research into the efficacy or the impact it will have. It’s also a slippery slope. Currently, the ERPOs that have been enacted allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to remove guns from an individual’s possession and prohibit them from buying new ones for as long as the order is in effect. But as more shootings inevitably happen and these laws inevitably expand, so will the timeframe that the orders will remain in effect, the other restrictions placed on the liberties of the person subject to the ERPO, the criteria that subjects someone to an ERPO, and the persons who will have access to the “red flag list”.
The unfortunate reality is that someone intent on committing an act of terror will find a way to accomplish their goal, whether it’s buying a weapon illegally, building a bomb or some other method. Similarly, someone intent on committing a sexual offense will not be stopped by a residency restriction or internet identifier registration. These laws might be extremely popular with the public, but will they actually do anything to protect the public?
On the flip side, the risks of expanded red flag laws and registries is that they will impede the liberty of those committed to living law abiding lives and lead to stigmatization, loss of support, loss of employment, homelessness and all the other factors that destabilize a person and actually trigger an offense.
Our thoughts… Laws and social policy should take into consideration empirical research and not be knee-jerk reactions intended to appease the public while doing nothing to make them safer.
The Florida Action Committee
Aug 8- Next New Member Orientation Call at 8pm ET. Dial 319-527-3487 to participate.
Aug 15- Meet and Greet in Tallahassee at 6pm.
Aug 17-Meet and Greet in Pensacola at 2pm.
Aug 23- Family Support Session in Hillsborough County at 7pm. Family/loved ones only.
Aug 24-Meet and Greet in Orange County 11am-1pm followed by a viewing of “Untouchable” from 1-3pm. Welcome to attend one or both sessions.
Sep 7- Family Support Session in Central Broward County (flyer) from 11am-1pm. Family/loved ones only.
For more information about these events, or to RSVP email [email protected] or call 904-452-8322.
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