Why red flag laws, background checks and an assault weapons ban won’t stop mass shootings

Congress is notorious for passing legislation without reading it, but the urge to rush legislation reached a new level in Washington this month. Some members of Congress have announced support for gun control bills that haven’t even been written yet!

What’s already clear from their vague proposals, however, is that none of these measures would have stopped any recent mass public shooting. For the safety of the general public, perhaps we should have a mandatory waiting period for lawmakers who rush to pass unconstitutional and unhelpful legislation.

Take, for instance, the call for universal background checks, which would ban private transfers of firearms that don’t involve a background check. Every attacker in all of the recent mass public shootings passed a background check and purchased his firearm from a federally licensed firearm dealer.

Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky. (PC: James Crisp)

The cowardly perpetrator of the 2012 Sandy Hook shooting didn’t have to pass a background check. His mother passed the background check, and he stole her guns.

Likewise, an underage male perpetrator of the 1999 Columbine shooting obtained a handgun through an older female who acted as a straw purchaser. Using a straw purchaser to obtain a firearm is already illegal.

There’s not a single mass public shooting that would have been prevented by universal background checks.

The other dirty little secret about universal background checks is that the only way to enforce them is to have a universal gun registry, which is a step toward future gun confiscation.

Due to serious defects with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, millions of citizens otherwise eligible to purchase a firearm have been denied the right to do so.

No one should seek to expand a program that has already robbed millions of citizens of their right to self-defense. Criminals and would-be criminals will simply continue to buy guns from each other, use illegal straw purchasers to get guns from lawful dealers or steal guns from relatives and other law-abiding citizens.

Another unserious proposal that will cause more problems than it will solve is forcing states to adopt red flag laws. If states want these laws, states can pass these laws.

The federal government should not be in the business of using taxpayer money to bribe states to adopt unconstitutional laws. In fact, 17 states have already passed red flag laws, and there’s no evidence that these laws have reduced the frequency of mass public shootings. These laws authorize unannounced gun confiscations that are hazardous to both citizens and law enforcement officers.

For example, a man in Maryland was shot and killed in the confusion that ensued when police showed up in the dark, unannounced, to confiscate his legally obtained guns. Tragedies such as this are why the sheriff in Weld County, Colorado, has already announced that he will not order his deputies to participate in these dangerous raids.

Red flag laws are also dangerous because they pressure those who need mental health care to avoid seeking it for fear of having their guns confiscated. Already the Veterans Administration bans veterans from possessing firearms if the veterans merely admit that someone else manages their finances.

The criteria for “red-flagging” a person in the various states are already vague. In some states, the laws allow only police officers, family members, romantic partners and cohabitants to refer someone for gun confiscation. The reality, though, is that anyone can refer someone by first referring him or her to the police. This system is ripe for abuse.

Every state in the union already has a law that allows individuals to be involuntarily confined to a medical facility briefly, on the basis of a mental health professional’s opinion that they are a danger to themselves or others. Whereas these laws seek to treat individuals in need, red flag laws only irritate individuals by taking some of their firearms and leaving them without mental health help. Furthermore, red flag laws don’t require expert testimony, but only suspicion by unqualified individuals.

Because some recent mass public shootings in the news have been carried out with AR-15 and AK-47-style weapons, some politicians are eager to reinstate the so-called assault-weapons ban of 1994. But there’s no reason to believe that policy would prevent horrific mass public shootings.

The shootings at Virginia Tech (32 fatalities in 2007), Fort Hood (13 fatalities in 2009), and Virginia Beach (12 fatalities in 2019) were all carried out with handguns.

The shootings at the Navy Yard (12 fatalities in 2013), Capital Gazette (5 fatalities in 2018), and Santa Fe High School (10 fatalities in 2018) were perpetrated with shotguns and handguns.

In fact, 50% of mass public shootings are committed with handguns alone, and 80% of mass public shootings involve at least one handgun. If the government bans so-called assault weapons, mass public shootings will still occur, and the same politicians will then try to ban shotguns and handguns.

This brings us to another ineffective and misguided proposal: a ban on high-capacity magazines. The attacker in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people with 15 ten-round magazines and not a single high-capacity magazine.

People sometimes ask why anyone would need a magazine with a capacity greater than 10 rounds, but if six brave, well-trained police officers required 58 rounds to stop the shooter in Dayton, it would be unreasonable to think that civilians with less training would need only 10 rounds or less to stop an attacker at their home.

Jim Jordan pushes Mueller on investigating ‘how the false accusations started’ (Photo: AP)

Universal background checks, red flag laws and the so-called assault weapons ban all have two things in common: They won’t stop mass public shootings, and they will infringe on constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

By keeping civilians from providing for their own protection and by causing those who need mental health care not to seek it, these laws will only make the current situation worse.

If these proposals become law they will inevitably fail to produce the intended results and there will be a push for even more gun bans. It’s time to slow down and look at the facts before rushing new laws to the president’s desk.

Republican Jim Jordan represents Ohio’s Fourth Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Republican Thomas Massie represents Kentucky’s Fourth District in the U.S. House of Representatives. He is chairman of the Second Amendment Caucus and serves on the House Committee on Oversight and Reform and the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure.

Featured GOA News & Updates