By Ruby Henley
The Massachusetts House of Representatives recently passed a bill that would give judges the power to seize weapons from individuals reported as a danger to themselves or others. It would allow family members, roommates, current and former romantic partners, and police officials to petition a court to take away a gun owner’s weapons for a year.
Of course, objections by the National Rifle Association and local gun owners have filled the air without recognition by supporters of the bill. The state Senate, controlled by Democrats, and Governor Charlie Baker, a Republican, are giddy with their newly minted power in passing “red flag” legislation
The NRA has labeled the bill as a gun grab. It is clear this legislation will “allow firearms to be seized from individuals following baseless accusations without proper due process,” the NRA announced. But most American people do not need anyone to tell them this, as we know without a doubt what this means to our Second Amendment Right – we are losing ground in maintaining what we hold dear.
Many Americans seek mental health counseling daily, and there should never be a stigma to this. We are a better society than to label anyone who has the good sense to seek help as “unstable.” This is where we are literally walking on shaky ground, and the statement below expresses this very well.
“It isn’t just about mental illness. It’s about the person’s history and capacity to be a responsible gun owner,” said Dominic Sisti, director of the Scattergood Program for Applied Ethics of Behavioral Healthcare.
If the standards for a red flag weren’t as high, it would be a greater concern. “I think that’s totally reasonable. IF AN INDIVIDUAL IS IN CRISIS, it seems like common sense to me that person shouldn’t have firearms,” Sisti said.
WHAT? IF AN INDIVIDUAL IS IN CRISIS? Our daily lives are a crisis, but as a people we are naturally adept in handling crises – it comes with the territory. But if one finds difficulty in handling a certain crisis, one should be able to pick up the phone and dial a crisis counselor. Now, many will hesitate in doing just that – asking the question, “will this put me on a list?”
Focusing gun control conversations on the mental health of those pulling the trigger is raising red flags for mental health advocates.
“When we convey the message, particularly to young people, that mental illness is something to be feared and that mental illness is a menace to society, we drive people away from treatment who need to be seeking treatment,” said Ron Honberg, J.D., senior policy advisor for advocacy and public policy for the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
Honberg said Trump’s language in talking about gun violence makes it seem like all violence is attributable to mental illness when, in fact, it is only a very small percentage.
President Trump had asserted, “This was a person who was sick, very sick.” He was referring to the 19-year-old shooter, who allegedly used an AR-15 style assault rifle to gun down teachers and students at a high school in Parkland, Florida, on Feb. 14.
Calls for limiting the right to bear arms for people with mental health issues increased after the Parkland shooting.
Research has found only a modest association between mental disorders and violent behavior. About four percent of violence in the U.S. is associated with severe mental illness, according to often cited research led by Duke University School of Medicine Professor in Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D.
California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington have red flag laws on the books, also known as extreme risk protection order laws. In early March, Vermont’s House and Senate had already passed a red flag bill.
Similar proposals have been introduced by lawmakers in Maine and in Rhode Island where Gov. Gina Raimondo also signed an executive order authorizing police to use all legal steps to remove guns from people deemed a threat.
After the state of Missouri repealed its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007, researchers from Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research found a 25 percent increase in firearm homicide rates over the next five years while none of its bordering states experienced significant increases in murder rates.
The U.S. murder rate actually declined by more than five percent during the same period.
If Massachusetts’ Governor Baker signs the bill into law as it is currently written, then law enforcement, family members, and those pesky ex-wives and husbands would be allowed to notify law enforcement that a person they know has a gun that they think should be taken away.
I hope they allow for more help, as I think they will need it. I can only begin to imagine the chaos which will ensue.
An on-call judge would then be contacted and asked to make a decision on whether to temporarily remove the gun.
If the firearm is ordered removed, that ruling would stand for 10 days until a separate hearing, when a judge could decide whether to maintain the order for a full year.
We should all pray for those who find themselves caught up in this three-ring circus of convoluted laws being used against them.
The NRA’s argument that broad-based gun laws won’t prevent specific, troubled people from committing acts of violence is common sense for most people – that is people without a specific agenda of disarming Americans.
In Massachusetts, the bill is now headed to the state Senate, where it is widely expected to be approved before Governor Baker receives it for a final signoff.
Most of the American people will hear about it as they sit at the dinner table while watching the evening news. But they may be too busy to discuss exactly what it means to them as a family.
The parents might be balancing their budget, searching for a way to afford marriage counseling. Times are rough, and they are finding more friction between them.
Possibly they may even be considering taking their oldest son to counseling to help him cope with the pressures at school.
As their daughter stands watching over her mother’s shoulder, she may be hoping for funds to purchase a dress to wear to a dance. That dress means acceptance by her friends at school, and that acceptance is more important to her now that she has entered middle school.
Whatever their budget allows, they will cope with the outcome as they were raised by their own parents to do. They are the American family, and their rights should be protected and held sacred by the government they have chosen to represent them.
The American people are no strangers to working through crises without violence, as they do it every day of their lives. Make no mistake about that.
Published on May 3, 2018
During an evening session on May 2, Rep Lundeen gives three reasons why HB18-1436 “Red Flag” Gun Bill should not be passed.