Opinion: Amid U.S. debate, Ga. must pass red flag laws

The Georgia Capitol.

The Georgia Capitol.

Usually in the aftermath of a mass shooting, the United States splits itself into two corners and prepares for several weeks of debate on what, if anything, can be done to prevent another one. It is so common now that before we can wrap our minds around the loss of life, many of us are blinded by our partisan leanings, which leads to either inaction or worse; terrible public policy. I know the American people, regardless of their political ideologies, want action to be taken here. While I believe there is a broader discussion to be had on federal domestic terrorism legislation and better coordination between the states and the Department on Homeland Security, I also believe that passing Red Flags laws on a statewide level is a positive first step.

The execution of Red Flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protect Orders or Gun Violence Restraining Orders, varies from state to state. However, the general concept is that someone close to an individual can petition a court to remove all firearms owned by that individual and keep them from securing other firearms for a limited amount of time due to the reasonable belief that an individual is a threat. For most ERPOs, the person petitioning the court must not only prove a relationship with the individual but also provide substantive evidence to the court. A clear pattern of disturbed, untreated psychological behavior is an example of what the court would be looking for in deciding if an ERPO is warranted.

My fellow conservatives, as well as Georgia’s gun owners, have a right to be concerned with any legislation or policies focused on mass shootings. We are often painted as the villains after a mass shooting: clinging to the Second Amendment while Americans are slaughtered. It is also true the progressive Left wants the Second Amendment gone and for law-abiding citizens to be disarmed, by force if necessary. However, those emotions and reactions are tied to an ideological fight that I am arguing have no grounds with the issues at hand. This is not, and has never been about, the Second Amendment or the right to bear arms. This is about protecting Georgians from the very real, consistent threat of domestic terrorism: whether that be from a lone wolf or an ideological, trained group.

But, to those who are still concerned, I offer the following counterpoints to the two major arguments I’ve seen from the Right concerning Red Flag laws. The first is that the suspicion of committing a crime is not enough to revoke, even temporarily, a citizen’s constitutional rights. A properly drafted Red Flag law does not rely on suspicion. Rather, it demands a clear chain of evidence: not just the word of the petitioners. The second is that it will not completely solve the problem of mass shootings in this country. No, it won’t. However, the idea that a proposed policy should be an exact and complete remedy for the situation the policy is being proposed on is, to be nice about it, not good enough. Not anymore.

It will take years of cultural and political shifts to push back on the problem. However, passing Red Flag laws now will give law enforcement a vital tool to protect American lives and that has been the position of American conservatives since September 12, 2001. Georgia has an opportunity to step up here and send a message to our fellow conservatives that we will lead in securing the safety of the American people. I say we do it.

Joel Truss, of Stockbridge, works with non-profit organizations as a political adviser.