The dangers of ‘Red Flag’ laws

*This column was first published on Aug. 27, 2019 in The Washington Times. It has been updated to note recent events.

By Shae Sortwell

Last week’s massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, has politicians once again demanding the ability to violate our constitutional rights.

Once again they are pushing so-called “red flag” laws — a direct violation of multiple constitutional rights that would allow the government to seize a person’s property by force, following nothing more than an anonymous accusation. This fundamentally changes our system from “innocent until proven guilty” to “guilty until proven innocent.” It is fundamentally and unacceptably un-American.

Even worse than other forms of gun control, red flag laws don’t just violate the Second Amendment; they also violate the Fourth Amendment, the Fifth Amendment and the Sixth Amendment.

I understand the sincerity of those wanting real solutions to these senseless atrocities. I do as well (and have yet to meet anyone who doesn’t). But the American people should never surrender their constitutional rights to tackle a criminal problem.

The rights and liberties enshrined in these amendments to the U.S. Constitution weren’t just invented in 1791 with the Bill of Rights. They didn’t just spring up by magic. For more than 800 years — even before Magna Carta — men and women have fought to protect and codify our precious freedoms. See what happens when you ask a Russian, a Venezuelan, a Zimbabwean, a Saudi, or even (sadly) a Brit about the right to bear arms, due process, or the right to a trial by jury.

Unlike other societies, “take the guns first, go through due process second” has never been the American way. Red flag laws turn our legal tradition upside down. “Guilty until proven innocent” is a hallmark of the worst totalitarian societies and banana republics, not America. Ironically, the Second Amendment exists to protect the American people from just these things: tyrants who would tear their basic rights away from them.

I have six children. I value their safety just as much as supporters of red flag laws do. We all do (which may be the only thing all Americans share in common right now). But the answer isn’t decimating the Bill of Rights. Once our rights are gone, they are not coming back.

State Rep. Shae Sortwell (R-Two Rivers) represents Wisconsin’s 2nd Assembly District.

Read the original column at The Washington Times.


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