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Horowitz: There is no good federal response to school shootings

Op-ed
Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

They are not coming for your guns; they are coming for your bodies.

Unlike most other policy issues, Republicans tend to be united about guns and rarely submit to pressure – even when induced by a tragedy like Uvalde – to promote broad gun control measures. However, there is a greater political threat to which they might succumb, one that not only criminalizes guns but criminalizes our existence. Beware of the clamor to “do something” on mental illness tied to red-flag laws, for nothing good will come of it.

On the surface, focusing on mental illness and flagging those who seem to fit the profile of the Parkland or Uvalde shooters seems to be an attractive alternative to gun control. Which is why Republican senators are flocking to it in droves. After all, we are all frustrated about the fact that nearly every one of these shooters was known to members of the community (and even law enforcement) as a potential threat, and nothing was done to intervene. However, any effort to give more authority to the legal system, particularly the federal government, will not result in stopping a single one of these shooters and will instead be used against people like us.

Sens. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), and Bill Cassidy (R-La.) are all joining with Democrats to work out a federal response to mental health and red-flag laws. From the get-go, conservatives should draw the line at federal legislation. This is the sort of issue that needs to be dealt with at the county and school district levels and must be focused on fostering concealed carry and better security at the schools. Any federal intervention will lead to tyranny with numerous strings attached to funding programs they funnel through the states. In fact, the only federal legislation that is appropriate is the repeal of the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990.

Let’s not forget that in the country we live in today, our government considers conservatives to be the biggest red-flag threats to society. In February, the DHS posted a National Terrorism Advisory System bulletin identifying ordinary people who hold different views from the elites on COVID policies and election security as the number-one terrorism threat. Under “Key factors contributing to the current heightened threat environment,” the very first factor listed is “The proliferation of false or misleading narratives, which sow discord or undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions.”

Then there is the Garland memo on school boards. Last year, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that he is directing the FBI and federal prosecutors to meet with state and local law enforcement on how to combat what he referred to as "threats of violence" against school board officials by protesters of critical race theory.

"The Justice Department will also create specialized training and guidance for local school boards and school administrators," said Garland in a DOJ press release. "This training will help school board members and other potential victims understand the type of behavior that constitutes threats, how to report threatening conduct to the appropriate law enforcement agencies, and how to capture and preserve evidence of threatening conduct to aid in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes."

Does anyone think that a federal program to “deal with” mental illness and red flags would not be turned against us? Consider the number of conservative veterans they can easily suggest suffer from PTSD and use these new programs and policies to flag their public statements as looming threats. They can use their political statements as pretext to not only confiscate their guns but even to commit them to mental institutions.

Remember, we already have laws on the books in the states to commit people to mental institutions by force. In fact, it’s the left that has long opposed, and successfully stopped, the states from locking up the criminally insane, especially among the violent homeless criminals we see in cities like New York. So why would they be so eager to pass new red-flag laws rather than using the ones on the books? It’s all about due process or the lack thereof.

As Rep. Thomas Massie, chair of the Second Amendment Caucus, warned last week, unlike existing laws, which require a formal hearing and counsel for the accused, red-flag laws being proposed could strip people of their rights based on a written complaint from a neighbor alone. We have already witnessed so many doctors who prescribed ivermectin who had their licenses threatened based on complaints – not from patients, but from political enemies. We live in such a terribly divided country that leftists will use these laws against conservatives who absolutely don’t fit the profile of the Uvalde shooter.

Sensing conservative opposition to red-flag laws, Sen. Lindsey Graham claims that he opposes a federal law, but at the same time he is now pushing for a federal grant program to help fund state red-flag laws. But we all know how that ends. Just like with the endless COVID funding, where states were beholden to the CDC’s policies, so to the states will follow the feds’ lead on who is and isn’t a mental health threat and the process through which to determine it.

Now consider which agency would likely be involved in spearheading such a program. Well, none other than the FBI, of course. This same Lindsey Graham recently suggested he agrees to FBI Director Christopher Wray’s request for record funding for the organization. As Julie Kelly warns, “If he gets his way, Wray will control a $10.7 billion budget next year—a $1.4 billion increase over 2020—and nearly 37,000 employees.” She reminds us that “for nearly a year and a half, armed FBI agents across the country have raided, interrogated, and arrested more than 800 Americans on mostly nonviolent offenses related to January 6, 2021, a four-hour protest that Wray considers an ‘act of domestic terror.’”

If you think that pumping more money into an FBI red-flag program will be used to thwart the next shooter rather than being used against us, you must be on a ventilator.

The real answer is to terminate gun-free zones. That is the real political battle that will have an immediate impact on saving lives. Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who led the investigation into the 2018 Parkland shooting, actually changed his position in favor of arming school officials and teachers. “People need to keep an open mind to it, as the reality is that if someone else in that school had a gun, it could have saved kids’ lives.”

We need to neutralize threats, not allow a very flawed and capricious government to arbitrarily determine who is a threat based on proceedings outside due process. If COVID didn’t teach us that allowing government to determine who is a threat to others is extremely dangerous, then we deserve the trap in which we they will ensnare us.
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