Imagine for a second trying to open up Facebook in the morning, and instead getting a message that you were in Facebook jail.  Why?  Because someone reported you for something “offensive”… that wasn’t even offensive.  

And instead of getting to plead your case, show the lunacy of their fake claim and still keep using your Facebook account… you get slapped with a 30 day ban.

Welcome to Red Flag laws.  Only instead of Facebook jail, you lose the ability to defend yourself and your family.

“We must make sure that those judged to pose great risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process.” 

These words were spoken by President Trump following the recent mass-casualty shootings in El Paso and Dayton less than a week ago.

What the President is referring to are “Red Flag Laws,” also known as Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPO).

While on paper, these laws may seem to do good and save lives, we have already seen one incident where people have lost their lives due to “red flag” laws. And as ERPO laws become more common place, we must believe that more people, both cops and civilians are in harm’s way.

In November of 2018, Anne Arundel County police officers arrived at the home ofGary Willis, 61 to serve an ERPO order. Officers say that Willis answered the door, at 5 am, holding a handgun. When officers began to serve him the order, Willis became irate and grabbed his gun.

One of the officers tried to take the gun from Willis, but instead Willis fired the gun. The second officer fired a gun, striking Willis. He died at the scene. It was never made clear who had called police concerning Willis, or what threat he allegedly bore.

According to CBS News, these laws allow courts to temporarily confiscate firearms from individuals deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. Depending on the state, ERPO laws allow family members and law enforcement to ask a state court judge to issue an order that confiscates the guns of an individual who they believe poses a threat to their safety.

ERPO petitioners must present evidence to the court on why the individual poses a threat to others, as well as to himself or herself.

But what does that evidence look like? Is it as simple as “I heard them say XYZ…?”

The following states have enacted ERPO legislation: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Hawaii and Nevada have passed the legislation, but it does not go into effect until January 1, 2020. Michigan, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania are considering enacting ERPO legislation.

Connecticut claims that since enacting this law, suicides have dropped 14% in the past 20 years.

Of these states, 13 allow the petitions to be initiated by family or household members. Connecticut on the other hand, will only allow petitions from one state attorney or any two police officers. New York and Hawaii allow them to be filed by teachers or school administrators.

All these states allow removal of firearms ex parte, or without notice to the individual. The duration of the ex parte varies by state. California allows up to 21 days before a hearing is held. New York requires a hearing to be held with in 6 days.

The final order, after the hearing, varies as well, lasting anywhere from 6 months to indefinitely. New Jersey finals orders are indefinite, unless the gun owner proves at a hearing that they are no longer a threat.

But what if they never were a threat? What happens in those circumstances where you have a co-worker trying to get back at someone? What about the wife who is angry at her husband? In the states where just about anyone can file the petition, what stops these from being filed simply because of a grudge?

At the initial hearing, it is up to the gun owner to prove he or she is not a threat. This is a further departure from due process.

But let’s dive a little deeper into this concept. We have several areas that seem to fly in the face of the Constitution. There is the removal of due process, there is the removal of a persons right to face their accuser, and there is the absolute trampling of the 2ndAmendment.

It is the latter of those three that has many of us worried. We have run stories of law enforcement officials that have pledged not to comply with red flag laws in their state.

I have the luxury of living in Texas, where ERPO laws are not really on the horizon. But just in case, I reached out to a handful of officers in our great state for an off-the-record conversation. I asked each one of them: If Texas was a red flag state, would you enforce it?

One police chief I spoke with said this:

“If I was a Sheriff, I would have a completely different answer to this scenario. Sheriff’s as elected officials have a little more leeway than I do. As the Chief of Police, I must answer to the city manager.

If this law were passed in Texas and the city manager told me that we are going to enforce it, then that’s what we would do.

But for now, without a search warrant or exigent circumstances, we are not simply walking into someone’s house and taking their firearms. and even with a search warrant, we aren’t taking firearms that they are legally in possession of.”

Another said:

“I am glad I live in Texas and we don’t have to worry about this any time soon.”

I asked a follow-up question:

“How do you, as a leader of officers, instruct your officers to handle and approach these encounters with gun owners?”

Each officer I spoke with paused at this point. They all said basically the same thing.

“Good question. I need to think about that one.”

But one thing was a common sentiment: ERPO absolutely puts lives in danger, LEOs and citizens alike. The 2nd Amendment is a hot-button topic, especially for gun owners.

The “well-regulated militia” portion is there for this very reason. It was intended to keep a tyrannical government from taking guns away from law-abiding citizens without due process.

But herein lies the problem. Governors, congressional representatives and other legislators are not risking their lives to enforce an unconstitutional policy. They push the dangerous piece of enforcement down to the law enforcement community.

While there is always inherent danger in police work, why are we purposely placing our cops and our citizens in a no-win, life or death situation?

Please do not misunderstand my point. I am not advocating for mentally ill people to have access to weapons.

I am advocating, however, for the burden of proof to be where it is supposed to be, on the accuser. Otherwise, we are inevitably going to wind up with more blood on the streets.

Did you know that Law Enforcement Today has a private new home for those who support emergency responders and veterans?  It’s called LET Unity, and it’s where we share the untold stories of those patriotic Americans.  Every penny gets reinvested into giving these heroes a voice.  Check it out today.

Red flag laws ignore the fact that mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean dangerous

Correctional officials in prisons and parole and probation agencies say that their mental health caseloads are exploding.

Cops cite inexplicable actions on the part of offenders that create dangerous or deadly confrontations. Many, if not most, have mental health issues ranging from the diagnosable to emotional to anxiety, stress and depression concerns as well as brain injuries.

Mental Health Does Not Mean Dangerous

We need to understand that mental illness does not mean criminality or dangerousness; the great majority of those with mental illness pose little to no risk. But concurrently, forms of depression, anxiety, despair, mental illness, and self-medication through drugs and alcohol, is part of the makeup of most in the justice system.

Add Drugs

We arrested an offender with anxiety issues who was high on PCP. He assaulted a woman at a college.

There were three of us arresting one person and we almost destroyed an office in the process. All of us were considered large individuals; he was five foot nine weighing approximately 150 pounds. He fought viciously. We were worried about our safety and uncertain as to his apprehension. After a ten minute intense struggle, we handcuffed the individual.

Data indicates that most offenders at the time of arrest were under the influence of drugs or alcohol or both.

Anywhere from 56 percent (Charlotte) to 82 percent (Chicago) of arrestees across sites tested positive for the presence of some substance at the time of arrest. In 9 out of the 10 sites in 2009, 60 percent or more of arrestees tested positive, see ADAM and Drug Use at Arrest.

CNN and Mass Shootings

Each attack is as unique as it is horrific. But among the country’s deadliest acts of violence last year, investigators found similarities between many of the alleged perpetrators.

The Secret Service’s annual Mass Attacks in Public Spaces report, released Tuesday, says almost all of the alleged criminals in 27 mass attacks last year had experienced a major stressor in their lives.

And almost all had made alarming or threatening communications directed toward or in the presence of others. In more than 75% of the cases, someone else had noticed a sign of concern.

The report was published by the Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Center. The 27 attacks studied involved those in which three or more people were killed or injured last year. They include attacks in workplaces, schools and places of worship.

Half of the attackers were motivated by a grievance, the report found.

“In this report, two-thirds had mental health issues that deeply impacted their relationships,” said Dr. Lina Alathari, chief of the National Threat Assessment Center.

“For some of them, it contributed to the motive of why they carried out the attack.”

“While there is no single profile of a person who commits targeted violence, this report, and so many others … aims to assist our partners in law enforcement, in the education area, and so many other stakeholders in understanding some of the motivations behind mass attacks and their causative factors,” Secret Service Director James Murray said, CNN.

Everyday Offending

There is a ton of dysfunctional decision making among offenders resulting in police shootings, criminal activity, and high recidivism.

I interviewed hundreds of offenders who successfully transitioned from a criminal to a law-abiding life. Asked what separated them from those who fail, they told me that it was their personal conviction to get out of crime. They also remarked that many were not ready for change. When asked what that meant, they often said that their peers were fighting demons they could not control.

Data about traumatic brain injuries helps explain why so many offenders don’t do well. Add mental health, PTSD and substance abuse concerns, it collectively suggests that there are reasons for offender dysfunction.

New studies regarding those treated for criminal insanity and police crisis intervention teams are not encouraging. Neither is the data on programs to assist offenders leaving prison or on probation.

Personal dysfunction has been examined for decades as to why criminal offenders constantly make bad decisions. Most offenders recidivate; they return to the criminal justice system in massive numbers, Crime in America.

Even when provided with programs to address dysfunctional lifestyles, the vast majority do not do well, Crime in America.

But we now know there are reasons.

Denver Post-54 Percent Have A Serious Brain Injury

“Through a project that began five years ago, researchers have screened 4,100 people in jail, on probation or assigned to drug courts in Denver and five other counties to find out how many have a traumatic brain injury — an impairment that could impact the likelihood of their return to the criminal justice system.”

“The results were stark: 54 percent had a history of serious brain injury, compared with 8 percent of the general population,” Denver Post.

Most Offenders Have Mental Health Issues

Those dealing with the offender population often describe many as, “Having a chip on their shoulder the size of Montana.” Hostility is often an everyday trait. Many of us believe that it’s related to massive child abuse and neglect, Crime in America.

We’ve known since a 2006 self-report study that more than half of all prison and jail inmates have mental health problems. These estimates represented 56% of state prisoners, 45% of federal prisoners, and 64% of jail inmates.

“Twenty percent of all US adults have some form of mental illness, but very few of them have a mental illness that will increase their likelihood of violence,” Slate.Com.

A 2017 report states that more than a third (37%) of prisoners had been told by a mental health professional in the past that they had a mental health disorder.

Forty-four percent of jail inmates had been told by a mental health professional in the past that they had a mental health disorder.

Some suggest that the numbers above are an undercount. Many are reluctant to admit to mental health concerns.

PTSD

There are articles about people who live in high crime communities having PTSD because of their exposure to violence in their families and community.  High crime area violence seems to be corrupting; it may influence people who can see violence as a necessary component of life.

Pro-Publica-35 Percent Of People Found Criminally Insane Receiving Treatment Charged With New Crimes

About 35 percent of people found criminally insane in Oregon and then let out of supervised psychiatric treatment were charged with new crimes within three years of being freed by state officials.

Between Jan. 1, 2008, and Oct. 15, 2015, the state freed 220 defendants who had been acquitted of felonies because they could not tell right from wrong or control their actions. About a quarter of them, or 51 people, were charged with attacking others within three years. Twenty-five were charged with lesser crimes. Eighteen others were charged more than three years later, including 12 people for violent incidents.

They were charged with felonies about as often as people freed after serving prison terms — both 16 percent — according to our analysis and the Oregon Department of Corrections.

On its website, the board assures Oregonians that repeat offenses by people it supervises are exceedingly rare events, with only 0.46 percent of defendants committing new crimes each year, ProPublica.

Police Crisis Intervention Teams

This practice comprises specialized police-led, pre-booking jail diversion responses to individuals with mental illness. The goals are to reduce police officers’ injuries and use of force, and to reduce arrests of individuals with mental illness.

The practice is rated no effects by the Department of Justice for reducing arrests of individuals with mental illness and reducing trained police officers’ use of force in situations involving mentally ill individuals, Crime Solutions.Gov.

Nevertheless, there are numerious calls from law enforcemtnt to stop sending cops into situations where mental health issues are suspected. Well trained or degreed experts should be handeling these calls with officers in the background if necessary, Wall Street Journal.

Conclusions

The vast majority of our discussions about mass shootings, crime, police encounters that go wrong, treatment failures and recidivism may be explained by the fact that offenders we encounter can be very troubled people with brain injuries, PTSD, and mental health issues who self-medicate through drugs and alcohol.

Most offenders are under the influence of drugs and alcohol at the time of arrest.

I’m not excusing or justifying bad behavior, but the dynamics need to be understood.

It’s probable that the conditions mentioned above explain the chaotic nature of the lives of offenders. It’s equally probable that the root cause of justice involved people is massive child abuse that few are willing to acknowledge or address.

As said previously on this site, programs to address the social and personal needs of people caught up in the justice system need examination by a national conference and a research agenda similar in importance to cancer.

Crime is insidious, profoundly affecting metropolitan areas, employment, education, investment and everything we hold important to any functional society. Without the tools to remediate the social and personal issues offenders bring to the table, we will never make headway as to perceptions of safety and economic recovery.

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