There are reports that Republicans in Congress are warming to the idea of gun control called “red flag” laws that would be directed at keeping guns out of the hands of the mentally disturbed as a means of curbing mass shootings.
Members of Congress are telling the people who they represent that laws such as these are necessary.
But to identify a person who has mental problems who may turn violent is a difficult task in most instances. There is general agreement that persons who exhibit signs of extreme behavior should be reported and watched, and prevented from buying and owning guns, but law enforcement officers can’t do much about them unless those persons commit a crime. But those signs don’t always result in violent behavior. They can be watched by those people close to them, but that’s not a complete answer. No one knows exactly when a mentally disturbed person is about to become violent in most cases.
If a person wants a firearm he or she will find a way to get one. There are no 100 percent controls that will work. Should the government be the arbiter of gun ownership?
Who decides a person is mentally disturbed? Doctors can make that decision but there is no way they can reach all of them.
President Trump said: “We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process.’’ No one should disagree with that statement, but it’s hardly a solution because of the identification factor.
Some military veterans can tell you of incidents they witnessed in which a member of their unit, or one that they were familiar with cracked up from the stress from combat. And in some cases, it occurred while in training. These were mental cases that weren’t recognized before the soldier cracked. Sometimes a person couldn’t adjust to military life and it wore on them before they cracked.
From personal experience, we were aware of an infantryman who was acting strange, seeing things that weren’t there, was laughed at because of his weird behavior, and was actually encouraged in some of his strange actions, by his fellow comrades. He finally cracked and was firing his rifle wildly before he was subdued. No one was injured. Those who were near him and witnessed his strange behavior never realized he had serious mental problems.
If a family member recognizes that a member of his family is acting strange, even has possession of a gun, or guns, makes threatening remarks at times about others, the chances of making the police aware of the person since he might be a public threat are small. Probably in most instances, the person isn’t a threat but you never can be sure.
Some lawmakers are calling for the TAPS Act — the Threat Assessment, Prevention and Safety Act — which lays out the standards for government to determine a behavioral threat, and empowers the states to establish a “behavioral assessment and management unit.” The state through the court system then has the right to file “extreme risk protection orders, or EROPs, against persons deemed at risk of committing acts of violence.” Those deemed “extreme risk” would face confiscation of their guns. Other “red flag” ideas: allow for individuals to report family members deemed mentally unfit and for local authorities to have the power to assess and decide and even confiscate.
Most Republican lawmakers and some Democrats in Congress believe strongly in the Second Amendment and fear confiscation of guns except in extreme mental cases.
Republicans admit there are many unknowns in “red flag laws.” But they are under fire for not doing anything and will accept some of the ideas in the “red flag” proposals. They say the “red flags” raise many flags themselves.