Monday, August 5, 2019

Red Flag Laws: When President Trump is Wrong

There is a caricature that many Leftists and Never Trumpers have about Trump is the impression that all Trump supporters blindly follow whatever President Trump says and does, and that they cannot somehow think for themselves.  And because President Trump has been so different from other Presidents over the last 2 1/2 years--because he has been so sensible and straightforward on so many major issues where previous Republican Presidents have been timid--I can see where the impression comes from, even if it is untrue.  We do back him up a lot, quite a bit more than many of us have backed up other Presidents, as a matter of fact.  While this has not been the sycophantic reaction that critics have deemed it to be, it has happened instead because of a symmetry on the most important issues that base Republican voters and Trump supporters have had with the President...a symmetry that most of us have never had with any other President in our lifetimes.  With such symmetry, those who don't understand the typical Trump voter might see the appearance of such consistent agreement and assume it is "blind allegiance"--when instead it is based on a much more deep and meaningful overlap of political and cultural ideals.

That symmetry was severely tested today (and, in some ways, may be broken...perhaps beyond repair) by the President's openness to "Red Flag" gun laws in response to recent mass shootings.  While I can't speak for other Trump supporters, I can say that--from my perspective--this is the first moment at which I've been somewhat ashamed of the President, or that I have truly questioned his commitment to our principals.  There were many reasons that I (and others) supported the President during the campaign.  We knew he was right on Immigration, we knew he was right about the Wall, we knew he was more correct about our economic issues than any President--of either party--that we'd ever seen...and we knew (or were at least led to believe) that he was strong on the 2nd Amendment.  Hints at national conceal carry reciprocity on the campaign trail peaked out interest.  His speeches at the NRA and in front of other 2A audiences seemed to not only check all the right boxes...but seemed to do so with a commitment that few other politicians (and none on the Presidential level, save Ron Paul) had ever demonstrated.

But then we had the Bump Stock Ban.  That was a blow...but to most of us gun owners, bump stocks were an anomaly...something akin to a toy.  Some of us were willing to look the other way, given that few of us had bump stocks, and even fewer of us seemed to have the desire to ever purchase or use one.  "If that's the worst that can happen", we thought to ourselves, "then we're in pretty good shape, given the overall anti-gun environment".

But then today happened...and I have to wonder if the bonds of trust that we who place a great deal of importance on the 2nd Amendment can ever get past the acceptance of the idea of Red Flag gun laws.  Now, to the uninitiated, I understand that such laws can seem like "common sense".  But such laws would be very problematic, for two reasons:

The first issue:  If we have people walking around society who are so deranged that they can't be trusted to own a gun, then are we suddenly going to be safe with them walking around society so long as they can't access a gun? Absolutely not. If they are that far gone, if they are that much of a danger to society...then they need to be institutionalized and separated from normal functioning people instead of trying to find ways for them to continue to be a part of society and endanger us (whether they can get a gun or not).  Allowing nutjobs to walk around our streets and our towns--so long as they do so without access to a gun--does not make them docile...and it certainly doesn't make the rest of us any more safe.

The second issue:  Why on Earth would we trust the government to make the decision of who is mentally competent to have a firearm and who isn't? We've already seen how far they will sink to interfere with a presidential election and how far they will go to try and get a sitting President out of office...why would we think they *wouldn't* abuse this new power within moments of having it granted to them? We could sit here all day and recite situations and incidents throughout our history when our Federal Government abused or misused it's power in order to silence, destroy, or even kill people they decided were their why would we think they wouldn't use this new found power for the same means?  Why would they not use this power against us in order to silence--or even dispose of--us?

Now, playing Devil's Advocate for a moment, I know two things about President Trump by observing him:  First, that he is a man of action.  Second, that he is a very compassionate person (perhaps compassionate to a fault, in some cases).  Given that set of personality traits, I could see a situation where he is naturally horrified and taken aback about the death and destruction over this weekend (as we all are)...and given his propensity to take significant and drastic action when he sees a problem that needs to be corrected...I can see him embracing these laws as a significant step towards--he believes--resolving this issue while staying away from things like "assault rifle" bans, magazine limits, etc.

I'd like to think that the President is taking this path--wrong as it may be--because of his compassionate nature, and because he legitimately (if incorrectly) believes that it will make a difference.

But this is the real world, and the old cliche is true--the road to Hell really is paved with good intentions.  Perhaps the President should be reminded of why we have the Second Amendment in the first place.  Many people may have forgotten--or perhaps they were never taught in the first place--that the ratification of our Constitution among the original thirteen states was not a slam dunk.  Indeed, there was much contentiousness when the Constitution was presented to the various states for possible ratification.  There were many issues, questions, and concerns that individual states had with the Constitution, but among the most profound of these concerns was the presence of a centralized government and a standing army.  After what the colonists had been through with England--dealing with a strong centralized government that would use it's standing army in order to abuse it's power--they were understandably leery about setting up another centralized government that could, in effect, end up doing the same thing.  This was a major point of contention during the ratification of the Constitution.

As a result, the Bill of Rights--the first 10 Amendments of the Constitution--were drafted.  These 10 amendments were designed to assuage the concerns of the various states, and without them, the Constitution would not have been ratified.  The Second Amendment, of course, was one of these 10...and it was critical, as it was designed to give the states the assurance that--because the individual people would always have the right to bear the same arms that the standing army had--the centralized government could never use that standing army to run roughshod over the people.  This was a critical compromise, and without it, it's doubtful that the Constitution would have ever been ratified in it's current form, with the centralized Federal Government intact.

Red Flag gun laws would make an absolute mockery of this critical compromise and arrangement.  The point of our Right to bear Arms is to keep the centralized government in check--it wasn't about hunting, target shooting, or even self-defense from criminals (although those are wonderful side benefits).  The states understood that, even in the best of circumstances, the citizens relationship with the central government would always be acrimonious and filled with tension.  That the centralized government could never be fully trusted, and that they had to take measures to keep that government off balance.  They certainly never would have allowed that government to determine whom among them would be allowed to have weapons and who wouldn't--this would defeat the entire purpose of not only the Second Amendment, but of the Revolution as a whole.

Look at it this way--would we ever divulge to Kim Jong Un where every missile, bomb, tank, and aircraft that we have are located?  Absolutely not.  Would we ever allow Kim Jong Un to determine how many missiles, tanks, planes, etc that we had...and to make conditions on what armaments we could build or purchase, and who would be in control of them?  Heavens no!  But Red Flag gun laws would force the American People--who's relationship with their government even in the best of times can be no less distrustful and acrimonious than that with enemies like Kim Jong Un--to allow the very government we are distrustful of, and which we may have to do battle with one day (though we all hope this never comes to pass), to have the final say on who has what weaponry.

The President's words today might come from a place of compassion and love...but that doesn't matter.  What has been suggested by the President today will throw the precarious arrangement between the American People and their government out of balance...and over the long term, it will place us all in danger and potentially under oppression.  It is absolutely unacceptable, and the President is unequivocally wrong.  Worse yet, he has severely damaged the bonds of trust he has with his supporters, and with good Americans across the country.  And I fear these bonds may be difficult to repair.

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