The Senate compromise 'gun safety' bill is here
Last week, we learned that the usual Republicans who constantly "compromise" with Democrats by giving away constitutional rights were proud to join with Democrats to pass a "gun safety" bill. Yesterday afternoon, the bill finally showed up. It's 80 pages long, so I had the chance to give it only the swiftest review. What I can say is that (a) it ostensibly has due process protections, and (b) it probably will have a minimal effect on gun safety.
Many Second Amendment–supporters have been very worried about the fact that the "compromise" bill was set to include funding for state "red flag" laws. These laws are ostensibly intended to keep guns out of the hands of crazed mass shooters like the ones in Buffalo and Uvalde. New York's red flag law, however, failed. And while Texas doesn't have a red flag law, it allows law enforcement to intervene when it receives reports that someone is an imminent threat. That also failed.
Existing red flag laws also deprive people of their weapons without any semblance of due process. Based on a complaint that may be politically or personally motivated, a judge issues a secret order, and the police seize a person's guns. Then the person deprived of his rights must fight to get them back. Because veterans are often both armed and conservative, there's a real fear that vets will be specially targeted.
So the big question is whether the "compromise" bill will see the federal government funding states that strip Americans of their Second Amendment rights without due process. At a first hasty glance, it does seem as if the Republicans at least tried to insert some protections.
Image: Senate Bill (edited).
(Caveat: The problem with quickly reading these bills isn't just that they're long. They are also written to amend a multitude of existing statutes. That means that, if you really want to understand a proposed bill, you must read the other laws to which the bill refers. I have not done so.)
Section 12003 of the bill is entitled "Use of Byrne Grants for Implementation of State Crisis Intervention Programs" — in other words, using federal funds to help create state red flag laws. The proposed bill amends the Omnibus Crime Bill of 1968 and would add funds for states to implement, among other things, "extreme risk protection order programs." However, the programs, the bill insists, must include, "at a minimum,"
pre-deprivation and post deprivation due process rights that prevent any violation or infringement of the Constitution of the United States, including but not limited to the Bill of Rights, and the substantive or procedural due process rights guaranteed under the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, as applied to the States, and as interpreted by State courts and United States courts (including the Supreme Court of the United States). Such programs must include, at the appropriate phase to prevent any violation of constitutional rights, at minimum, notice, the right to an in-person hearing, an unbiased adjudicator, the right to know opposing evidence, the right to present evidence, and the right to confront adverse witnesses;
The bill also insists on the right to counsel (provided the government doesn't pay) and, at both pre- and post-deprivation hearings, heightened evidentiary standards sufficient to ensure all the constitutional rights set out above.
Will the above language protect people's Second Amendment rights? The proof of this pudding will be in the eating. I suspect that many people hit with a red flag law complaint will be unable to obtain counsel — and the government's not going to help. Without a lawyer to assert those rights, they may as well not exist. Also, these will be hasty proceedings, with judges terrified of possibly letting a future shooter go. Despite the protections, the bias will be to seize weapons — and then good luck to the citizen trying to get them back later.
As for the other stuff, the bill promises to expand mental health services, including in schools; open juvenile records for gun customers under 21; stop illegal trafficking in firearms; etc. The ability to review juvenile records, which are sealed, before allowing a person under 21 to buy a weapon is probably useful.
As for the rest, I'm inclined to believe that our mental health and violence problems stem from a broken culture that sees politicians, the media, and educators encourage racial hatred; flood the country with illegal aliens, who bring with them illegal drugs, guns, and sex-traffickers; destroy the economy; create a culture of death with unlimited abortions; legalize marijuana, a drug strongly associated with psychosis and violence; ignore existing laws, including those against illegal guns and gun crime; and sow confusion about biological sex.
All these things break a culture, and broken cultures produce broken, violent people. No additional mental health funding or red flag laws will change that.