By: Ted Patterson
“Extreme Risk Prevention Orders” (ERPOs) are popping up across the nation right now. Some states, like Florida and Maryland, have already passed these back-door gun control laws, while many other states are considering them.
ERPOs, also known as “red flag” gun confiscation laws, are pitched as a way to get guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others. In the aftermath of several school shootings this year, policy makers are considering how to keep guns out of the hands of individuals considered to be “high risk.”
The problem is: What does “high risk” mean? Who defines whether someone is a danger to themselves or others? Would such measures be effective?
In different cases, the shooters have shown no history of a criminal record or documented mental illness. And even cases in which there were documented issues, the government bungled addressing them anyway (Parkland, Florida’s Nicholas Cruz comes to mind).
Because criminal records or documented evidence of a “high risk” individual have sometimes been hard to find for shooters, ERPO laws are designed to give the government power to take guns away based on the simple fear of someone taking action.
Second Amendment supporters need to be aware of just how scary these bills are, particularly that:
1. Law-abiding gun owners are guilty until proven innocent under ERPOs.
These bills open the floodgates for vindictive family members, friends, or John Q. Public to accuse you of almost anything as justification to take your firearms. They can take these accusations to court, even though you’ve never been charged with or convicted of a crime. At that point, you are on defense to try to convince the judge why you should be able to keep your guns and your Second Amendment rights. These laws are a gross violation of the rights guaranteed to us as American citizens by the Fourth Amendment.
2. ERPOs open up a Pandora’s Box of ways for cunning lawyers and conniving family members to exploit gun owners.
Red flag ERPO bills have been written so broadly on two fronts that in some instances, people are given near-endless possibilities by which to use the legal system to persecute gun owners.
Some ERPO bills restrict those who can report “high risk” individuals to family and law-enforcement, whereas some laws would expand the list to allow just about anybody to accuse.
The list of what violations you can be reported for is all over the place. If you drank beer one night, and someone took that the wrong way or thought you were out of control, they could take that to court. If someone was in your house and felt your guns were not stored properly, it could be grounds for a report. If you made a comment to someone or seemed depressed, virtually raising any type of “mental health” red flag could end with you battling for your Second Amendment rights in court.
3. The time frame for confiscation can go on for months.
ERPOs can last for weeks, months, or up to a year in cases where a gun owner would have to appear for repeated court hearings to try to win back his or her Constitutional rights. In some instances, the government would hold onto your guns for you; other bills have a neutral third party holding onto your guns.
4. Both political parties are supporting ERPOs.
Many would have you believe that Democrats are leading the charge for gun control in the wake of the horrific schools shootings of 2018. But nothing could be further from the truth. Republicans are leading efforts as well.
In Pennsylvania, Rep. Todd Stephens, a southeastern PA state legislator, is pushing his own ERPO bill, and in Maryland, dozens of Republicans and their Republican governor voted for a red flag gun confiscation bill. Stephens’ bill sits in the Pennsylvania House Judiciary Committee at present with 26 co-sponsors.
With the 2018 and 2020 elections looming, it will be interesting to see what transpires in such crucial battleground states as Pennsylvania. Remember when you go to vote: Don’t be deceived by political party labels when it comes to your Second Amendment rights.
Ted Patterson is pro-freedom political activist and consultant writing from Maryland. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.