In the wake of the tragic shootings in Texas and Ohio, we see the continued attempt to erode our God-given rights and liberties, such as the right to self-defense.
However, while the Second Amendment has been under fire for decades, we are seeing a newer front for the infringement of our rights.
This new front comes in the form of preventative measures that try to nip potential mass murderers in the bud. The method being advocated is a form of red flag law, specifically the Threat Assessment, Prevention, and Safety or TAPS Act.
The TAPS Act has some surprising advocates. Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw from Texas’ 2nd District is one of the more vocal advocates of this Act in Congress.
In his August 4th tweet, Representative Crenshaw suggested that the TAPS Act along with red flag laws and “gun violence restraining orders” would be a step in the right direction to prevent future incidents.
However, does this Act and red flag laws pose a greater threat to our democracy than their potential benefits? Let’s look into it.
There are several examples of community policing today, especially on social media platforms. At the forefront of it all, Facebook, Twitter, and Google are the most prominent practitioners of enforcing community standards, especially in the realm of what is deemed “Hate speech.”
What does this have to do with red flag laws or the TAPS Act? These companies are examples of how community enforcement tools can be abused. As more information dealing with a significant political bias on the side of the companies surfaces, it only confirms what many conservatives on those platforms have witnessed. The abuse of the report abilities of those sites.
Numerous pages on Facebook have been taken down because they did not adhere to a liberal ideology. Shadow bans littered Twitter within the last few years. Google has explicitly vastly different search results and definitions than other search engines. All of these serve the purpose of eradicating an opposing opinion.
This brings us to the significant impact of red flags laws. First off, what are red flag laws? Red flag laws are a legal recourse for individuals who think someone they have encountered or know personally might pose a threat to the community. The suspected individual might be in possession of firearms or other weapons and expressed an intent to harm others.
Combine this with the TAPS Act’s goal of establishing how to determine if an individual or individuals pose a threat, and we have the groundwork for the abuse of executive authority.
We’ve recently seen that the Democratic Party has stated that much of President Trump’s comments. With the opinions of his supporters are inciting violence, spreading hate, and advocating racism. Many of the examples they provide are taken out of context or wholly reworded to reflect a given agenda. It might not be a large portion of them, but some believe this interpretation is the reality of things.
With these red flag laws, the individual’s freedom of speech and the security of their property is put in danger. These laws and the TAPS Act are in direct conflict with the First, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments.
They, in essence, create the real-world equivalent of a suspended social media account. But instead of losing access to your online friends, you are thrown in custody with your property seized all on suspicion of being a possible threat.
One’s right to freedom of expression and criticizing the government’s activities can easily be portrayed as dangerous or as promoting sedition. A similar situation to this was under certain defunct aspects of the Alien and Sedition acts of 1798, albeit for citizens in this scenario.
Additionally, your Fourth Amendment rights are at stake as well. The seizure of your personal firearms or other items that are dangerous because someone suspects you might be a threat is almost a textbook example of an unreasonable search and seizure.
On top of this, your Fifth Amendment rights would be violated as well. This would be the result of a lack of due process. Because of the word or suggestion of one or more individuals, your freedom and property would be taken from you without the overview of a jury, let alone a grand jury. You would be treated as if you were convicted of a serious crime without even committing a crime or having a day in court.
Red flag laws and the TAPS Act are an even more significant slippery slope than average gun control measures. The reason being that it’s not merely your ability to defend yourself on the line; it is your ability to have a different opinion or stance.
The TAPS Act and red flag laws are almost Orwellian in nature, creating the opportunity for ideological lynchings of conservatives and Christians alike. They are the tools that can be used to persecute individuals who live in deep blue states but hold traditional conservative ideals. Or those who believe marriage is between one man and one woman.
Almost every controversial topic in the last ten years could be weaponized as inciting violence or hate speech under red flag laws. With the TAPS Act stating that one of its goals is to establish a national strategy of determining “Behavioral threat assessment and management” (Section 6, subsection A, paragraph 1), the next question is “What defines a threat?”
For the most part, the definition of a threat varies significantly across the country. Some are quite logical in their description, such as an armed suspect attacking other individuals. Others would define it as refusing to use the appropriate gender pronouns. And still, others would say that it is espousing to traditional ideals on family and religion.
Red flag laws and the TAPS Act strike right at the heart of a democratic system, the freedom of speech and due process under the law. Without these in place, a country becomes nothing more than servants of whoever is executing the laws.