I generally try to stay away form the subject of politics in my articles out of respect to the publisher, editor and you the readers. No political party has a lock on the outdoors, hunting and fishing however these things are generally more in the conservative perspective. Recent events around the country are becoming more than just a little alarming and it time we had this discussion.
A little background may help you understand my position. I am a member of the South Dakota House of Representatives and just starting my second term. In my first term I served on the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee and the House Judiciary committee. In the former we heard all the hunting, fishing and farming bills and in the latter we heard all the firearms bills. In this term I was elected as a Majority Whip, I serve on the State Affairs Committee and was appointed to Chair the House Health and Human Services committee.
So, you might ask, how do these mew committees further my involvement in the area of hunting, fishing and shooting sports? Many controversial bills dealing with subject matter like the Article V Convention of States and Constitutional Concealed carry are heard in State Affairs. You may think Health and Human Services is a bit of a stretch for an outdoors writer, but my appointment to that committee may have been perfectly timed. This committee will hear any bills pertaining to mental health issues, and that’s how I get to the subject of this months article.
If you have not been paying attention to the news and are not familiar with “Red Flag” laws, please do not stop reading now, and please do not ignore what is happening. Red flag laws in various forms have been passed in 13 states and several more are considering them as you read this. The intent of this kind of law is like that of many laws, it is meant to help protect the general public. But conservatives and moderates inadvertently allow these laws to play right into the hands of the liberal gun grabbers. Over the last eight to ten years there has been a common theme in almost all of the mass shootings, particularly in the school shootings. Almost to a person, these individuals had some psychological issues, were on meds (or failed to take them) and after the shootings everyone asked why nothing was done when people had early warnings these people might commit these heinous crimes. The media attention to these mass shootings has given rise to the universal cry – why didn’t someone intervene!
It gets a little complicated at the federal level but in the early years of the previous administration in Washington there was a concerted effort to expand mental health evaluations in the juvenile population and the result is called a ‘Serious Emotional Disturbance’ assessment. I could factually argue that it was an intentional and well planned beginning to what we are seeing transpire today with the red flag laws, but some would say my ‘tinfoil hat’ is a little off center. You can be the judge. The Feds came up with a new funding stream to perform a mental health evaluation on all juveniles who had emotional issues or violated the law and those evaluations are part of their permanent record. (disclaimer – my wife owns an agency that works with youth in trouble and these assessments really are happening all across South Dakota)
One of the offshoots of this movement are new laws that allow your relatives, or in some states even your neighbors or complete strangers to file a complaint stating you are acting strangely or have made recent threats or remarks about hurting someone. Your behavior raises a “Red Flag” in someone’s mind and they fear you may be the next mass shooter, or at the minimum you’re a threat to someone. In most states these are called ‘extreme risk protection orders.’ The bar is set very low for the validity of these complaints but if you are on the receiving end your life can become a nightmare.
If you are the recipient of one of these orders one of the first things that happens is law enforcement shows up at your door, sometimes peacefully and sometimes as a raid, and they confiscate all your firearms and ammo. The burden of proof that you are not a threat then falls on your shoulders. Getting angry and resisting only adds to the legitimacy of the complaint. In most states, if the mental health evaluation finds you really are not a threat, you will get your property back. In some states, at least from anecdotal stories, it can take years and possibly a law suit to get them back.
A mental disorder or illness diagnosis can be a very subjective finding, although there are specific criteria and assessment tools they utilize which are intended to standardize the evaluation. It depends greatly on who is doing that evaluation. If that person happens to be an anti-gun person and you have an ‘arsenal’ of 5 guns and 120 rounds of ammunition (sarcasm intended) they may add more scrutiny to your evaluation. However if you have 50 guns….. ? I think you can see were this slippery slope leads.
We need to be careful what we wish for – creating a safer society can have some very serious negative consequences. We live in scary times. When I was younger we read books like A Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 thinking these were pure science fiction. Many of the ideas in these books are everyday experiences or news stories for us now. South Dakota is not considering any ‘red flag’ laws that I am aware of but as I submit this article there are still seven days left to bring a bill forward for 2019. If one is put forward it is very likely it will come through the Health and Human Services Committee. You can contact me for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org