DeWine’s ‘red flag’ plan strikes a proper balance
Akron Beacon Journal: Gov. Mike DeWine didn’t surprise entirely with his call for a “red flag” law that would allow for the temporary seizure of weapons from gun owners who pose a threat to themselves or others.
The governor left the door open during the campaign last fall. He talked about ensuring that any legislation protected the due process rights of the gun owner. Now he has given his staff the job of crafting such a measure.
The governor revealed his intention on Monday during a conversation with reporters. This initiative follows a stretch in which he has been careful to cover his right flank, especially with regard to gun-rights advocates.
He supports pending legislation that would allow qualifying Ohioans to carry a concealed handgun without a permit or firearms training.
What spurred the governor to take the initiative on a “red flag” proposal?
He cited the recent shootings and deaths at houses of worship, including the attack at a synagogue near San Diego over the weekend.
“This is something that has to be deplored ... it’s sickening,” he told reporters.
In discussing a “red flag” bill, the governor stressed that the legislation must be something “that can pass.” Recall his predecessor, John Kasich, moved by the mass shootings at a concert in Las Vegas and a high school in Florida, spending much of last year urging his fellow Republicans at the Statehouse to advance a handful of modest and sensible steps to curb gun violence, the package devised by gun rights supporters. One was a “red flag” proposal.
Lawmakers ignored him.
Part of the resistance involved lawmakers weary of the high-handed Kasich, their relationship strained. More telling was the thinking of the gun lobby, opposed to practically any step to restrict gun rights, warning that even the slightest slippage risks ever more stringent limitations. By the end of the year, Kasich blamed “rotten, stinking politics.”
DeWine has a better relationship with lawmakers. Will that be enough to win eventual passage? Probably not – without lawmakers finally recognizing that a “red flag” law is the responsible thing to do, and that it can be accomplished without infringing on individual gun rights.
14 STATES HAVE ‘RED FLAG’
Currently, 14 states and the District of Columbia have enacted such laws. That includes Indiana and Florida, the former with its law since 2005, the latter acting last year in the wake of the Parkland High School slaughter.
Worth emphasis is that each year, roughly 22,000 Americans die by firearm suicide, or two-thirds of all gun deaths. A “red flag” law would allow family members who see warning signs to request that the courts intervene to prevent a person in crisis from having access to their guns.
Research shows that during the first decade of the law in Indiana, the suicide-by-firearm rate declined 7.5 percent. In Connecticut, the law has been part of a 14 percent decrease.
Everytown for Gun Safety, a research and advocacy group, looked at the mass shootings from 2009 to 2017. It found that in half of the cases, the shooters exhibited signs of posing a risk to themselves or others.
So there is an argument for family members and law-enforcement authorities seeking the help of the courts to prevent the loss of life. More, a “red flag” law can be written to require a full assessment of the evidence, a person receiving notice and the opportunity to respond, a judge making the final assessment. The experience has been that these cases are rare.
The laws hardly have resulted in government excess. This is about weighing gun rights against individual and public safety. A well-designed “red flag” law strikes the appropriate balance.