Student Gun Owners Share Their Opinions on Red-Flag Gun Laws
Retrieved from Pexels – submitted by Derwin Edwards
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, otherwise known as the “red-flag gun bill,” passed in the New Mexico House on Feb. 13, and is currently awaiting a signature from Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham.
If signed into law, this bill would allow a family, household member or a law enforcement officer to “flag” someone by petitioning the state court to take away their weapons if they sense a danger to themselves or to others. A judge will then decide if this is warranted and may issue a 15-day order to have a citizen’s guns confiscated. This will be followed by a hearing that will determine what could turn into the confiscation of those guns for one year.
Trace Burgoon, a junior at Eastern New Mexico University majoring in environmental science, shared concerns about the bill. Burgoon, who is an avid hunter and strongly touts the importance of gun safety and gun ownership, believes the red-flag laws are not fair to law-abiding citizens. “No one wants their guns taken away. Someone could just have a grudge, or just not like you, and they could cause a whole conflict where there’s only really bad outcomes,” Burgoon said.
“Even if you comply, you get your guns taken away. You have to go through psycho analysis, all of that. And that doesn’t prevent anything, really.” He said the people that are going to give up their guns are law-abiding citizens. “The people that don’t give up their guns, people that break the law, they’re the ones causing the crimes. So, it makes no sense. The whole thing is not very fair.”
Burgoon shared that he can see where some of the legislators are coming from in pushing for this bill, but he believes there are already provisions in place to address issues with dangerous individuals owning guns.
He believes law-abiding citizens who have done nothing wrong should not be
punished through gun confiscation, whether temporary or permanent. “There’s a lot more to guns than just having a weapon,” he shared. “Guns [pass] down through generations. It could be a grandfather’s gun or something like that. One that might not even be usable. And when that gets taken away, you don’t know
what’s going to happen to them. You don’t know if you’ll ever get them back. It’s all in the hands of someone else. For something that you might not have even done wrong,” Burgoon said. He added that there’s value tied to the guns including emotional and money invested in the firearm. “…It’s not in your hands anymore. It’s getting decided by someone else.” With this, Burgoon has concerns about safety for police officers and citizens when it comes to law abiding citizens resisting gun confiscation. “You can’t protect yourself against police officers, even though you may have done nothing wrong. So that’s going to cause a lot of conflict,” he said. Burgoon believes that for someone who has broken no laws, having their guns confiscated would likely cause conflict and danger that would not have been an issue in the absence of this law.
Although Burgoon is in opposition to the red-flag legislation, he does believe there are measures that should be taken to ensure gun safety. “I think they should offer classes in elementary about gun safety,” he said. “Anyone that wanted to hunt at a young age had to go through a hunter safety course. If they were to maybe show kids how to properly handle guns and show the dangers that come with them – that they’re not something to play with – then that might improve outcomes.” Ultimately, Burgoon believes that the issue does not begin and end with the gun. He believes it is a societal issue, and a mental health issue that gun control legislation cannot fix. In light of this, Burgoon feels that the freedom to own and carry weapons that provide the ability to protect yourself and your fellow man is the best way to protect against unlawful, violent perpetrators. “An armed society is a safe society,” he said.
Tanner King, a senior at ENMU majoring in criminal justice, and currently in the process of fulfilling his 200-hour internship at the Roosevelt County Sherriff’s Office, can see the merit of the red-flag legislation; but he believes it should come from the federal level, and not be a state-by-state issue. With each state making their own laws, and some making none at all pertaining to this particular legislation, King is concerned that people are going to be confused as to what their rights are. King added that another reason why it should be a federal deal is because some states won’t make it where there’s a hearing. “It’s just going to be paper work, where there’s no faces and there’s no communication besides that one
affidavit from a family member or a roommate or a police officer or an educator, so I think it would be very important for these people that might possibly have their guns taken away for a period of time to get to go and actually talk to the judge.”
King, who plans on working in law enforcement after college, believes that this legislation would be a civil issue, to its credit. “It’s an interesting deal because it’s not really a criminal issue, it’s a civil issue. Because it’s dealing with individuals with other individuals. It’s a civil issue because no laws are being broken.” King said that he is for red flag laws, but is also against them. “That’s why I’m glad it’s a civil issue,” he said.
King believes that the real value of this legislation is something that many are not recognizing. “There’s a whole lot of research about red-flag laws [pertaining to] suicide, and how this is really a big preventative for suicide. That’s why I’m really for it,” he said.
King believes that these laws are not as extreme as those in opposition are making them out to be. He said the red-flag legislation will be a temporary measure for certain individuals who pose a risk. He would greatly prefer this to having a broader ban on guns, as many legislators hope to see.
Responding to concerns about unfairness toward law-abiding citizens, King said, “The red-flag laws aren’t really intended for law-abiding citizens in a good mental capacity. When it’s law abiding citizens, it’s the ones who are posing a danger to themselves.” King believes that someone who is suicidal could be helped just through being flagged. According to King, simply knowing that someone cares for them and is concerned for their well-being could potentially save their life. “Of course, there’s other ways to kill yourself besides guns,” King continued. “But I mean, it’s at least preventative. It’s at least putting that message in people’s heads that people actually care about them.”
When it comes to the red-flag laws concerning criminals, King does not believe that criminals will always relinquish their guns peacefully, and this could pose a
threat to a police officer’s safety. But he does believe that any conflict that might arise during gun confiscation is the lesser evil in the sense that it could prevent a mass shooting where a large number of innocent people are harmed. Beyond this concern for officer’s safety, King has another concern for law enforcement. “I know there’s a lot of departments across the country saying that they will not participate in it at all. There’s a Sherriff here in New Mexico who is saying that he’ll go to jail before they go confiscate any weapons, no matter what the situation might be. When you put it in that sort of terms, that department is kind of putting themselves at a liability if that person actually goes out and does something. Law enforcement isn’t there to make the laws, they’re there to uphold them. When they sign up to be a police officer or a sheriff’s deputy, they’re signing up for those kinds of dangers and they know that. I think they just have to come up with tactics to be smart and approach the situation calmly.”
King believes this legislation is a great way to start the conversation about mental health issues and warning signs, and a step in the right direction toward saving lives. However, although it opens the door to the discussion of mental health issues, King also addressed a main concern of those in opposition to the bill which is that the red-flag legislation will also open the door for legislators to start introducing more intensive bans on guns. King shared that it’s very important to him that the confiscation of guns under the red-flag laws only be temporary. “The Constitution is such a strong document that it will be really difficult to weaken [the second amendment] in any way, I really do believe that.” he said. “Of course, there will be people that are concerned that their rights are being taken away, but like I said, the red-flag laws are just temporary confiscation, it’s not like their rights are being violated. And also, since it is a civil issue, it’s not going to be on their permanent record.” King went on to point out that these laws offer at least an option of compromise when it comes to this polarizing issue. “I’d rather have temporary confiscation compared to a permanent confiscation for everybody. I think for right now, this is the perfect compromise and the most legitimate way to go about it. I do find it’s a little discouraging that there’s so many people making this such a political issue and being so partisan about it. We need to focus more on mental health issues and getting people the help that they need, when they need it,” King said. “I believe 100 percent that it’s not a gun problem, it’s a mental health problem.”