'Red Flag' Laws Require a Tricky Balance

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Posted: Jun 15, 2022 12:01 AM

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It is easy to understand the bipartisan appeal of a policy that promises to reduce gun violence by targeting dangerous individuals instead of imposing broad limits that affect millions of law-abiding Americans. So it’s not surprising that the Senate gun control deal announced on Sunday includes federal grants aimed at encouraging states to pass and enforce “red flag” laws, which authorize courts to prohibit people from possessing firearms when they are deemed a threat to themselves or others.

However sensible that policy may seem, it suffers from two basic limitations that cannot be wished away by consensus-building rhetoric: Predicting violence is much harder than advocates of this approach are usually willing to admit, and trying to overcome that challenge by erring on the side of issuing red flag orders inevitably means that many innocent people will lose their Second Amendment rights, typically for a year and sometimes longer, even though they never would have used a gun to harm anyone.

The very concept

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