, nearly half of the state’s sheriff’s departments are in an uproar against a new “red flag” law that would require law enforcement officers to confiscate the firearms of any Coloradan who has been deemed unsuitable to retain his Second Amendment rights, and that would do so in a way that violates the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One sheriff, in rural Weld County, is so concerned by the idea that he has vowed to go to prison rather than administer it. These warnings should serve as a clear indication that something has gone wrong with the way in which legislators have come to think about individual rights. In the Centennial State, the canaries are sending warnings up the shaft.
The sheriffs who are openly discussing going to jail belong to the latter group—which, naturally, is not a comfortable place for them to be. By their nature, “red flag” laws require law enforcement officers to act proactively, immediately and without nuance or discretion. If, as is the case here, those law enforcement officers believe those laws to be unconstitutional, they are presented with a terrible choice: Violate the oath they took to uphold the Constitution, or refuse to follow their orders. In Colorado, we are seeing a sizeable number opt for the latter course.
As is typically the case with gun control measures, “red flag” laws are sold to voters as riskless guarantors of public safety and come replete with the bad-faith accusations of villainy to which advocates of the Bill of Rights have become sadly accustomed. “If you oppose this idea,” critics are told, “then you must support terrible outcomes.” In Colorado and beyond, opponents have been told that they are bad people who desire the abuse of women, do not care about the death of police officers, covet a general reduction in public safety and so forth. Which, of course, is dangerous nonsense. If one so chooses, one can always demagogue support for the Bill of Rights into enthusiasm for nefarious behavior—and, indeed, the same people always do. In the eyes of the wannabe authoritarian, champions of the First Amendment are mere advocates of “hate speech” or “lobbying” or “religious intolerance”; champions of the Fourth are trying to ensure that criminals have a safe place to hide; champions of the Fifth want “the guilty to walk free” and the evil to “stay silent”; champions of the Sixth hope to permit defendants to “revictimize the accused” and so forth.
There is, as a matter of fact, not a single American liberty that cannot be cast in this light. (*Edited to add: painful double negative*)
Depending on what the accuser is selling, the details may change. But the instinct most definitely does not. Thus it is that opposition to stripping rights away from Americans whose names have been placed unilaterally onto secret government lists is transmuted into support for “terrorists buying guns.” Thus it is that opposition to the government snooping around one’s social media and search histories is transmuted into support for “giving crazy people access to guns.” And thus it is that opposition to “red flag” laws that lack even basic protections for due process is transmuted into indifference toward women or children or anybody who is generally liked.
The correct response to this tactic is as simple as it is universally applicable: “No, I’m in favor of the Constitution.”