On Red Flags, Background Checks, and Assault Weapons

The East Bay Times, a daily newspaper based in Walnut Creek, California “looked at three years worth of recent active shooter incidents from 2016 through 2018 compiled by the FBI.  I must say that what the FBI report discovered is quite interesting and revealing.


“In more than two-thirds of the 75 cases reviewed, the shooters telegraphed their troubled state on social media, in remarks or messages to friends or family or with signs of mental illness or distress.”

“Of the active shooter cases analyzed, most of the killers signaled their desire to hurt themselves and others beforehand… In the Parkland shooting, school officials raised concerns about the 19-year-old gunman [sic] but authorities didn’t act on them.”

However, what the article went on to say about “red flag” laws in California gave me pause:

“Red flag” laws in California and other states go further, allowing authorities to temporarily take guns from people reported to be an extreme risk of using the weapons to hurt themselves or others, even if they have no record of violence or mental illness.”

Although I have endorsed “red flagging” anyone who makes a threat to kill anyone with a firearm, I am concerned that such laws can both infringe on first amendment rights and lead to having the weapons of law-abiding citizens taken away from them.

I agree with Amy Hunter, a spokeswoman for the NRA, that ‘“[red flag laws] at a minimum must include strong due process protections, require treatment, and include penalties against those who make frivolous claims.”’ I am pleased that “California and other states make it a crime to seek a gun violence restraining order under false pretenses.”


‘There were cases in which background checks should have blocked a purchase but failed to do so. The man who killed 26 people at a Sutherland Springs, Texas, church in November 2017 had a domestic violence conviction while serving in the Air Force, but it wasn’t entered into the national database used for background checks.”

“The survey reported that more than three out of four inmates said they got their gun illegally or through family or friends rather than a retailer… [But] the NRA has worked to improve the federal database to ensure it includes all legitimate records that would prohibit gun ownership through a background check.”


“While [assault weapons] were used in a minority of the active shooter incidents from 2016 through 2018, they were involved in the deadliest.” In fact, in less than 1% of the incidents.

In fairness to the truth, I must note that the 5-day waiting period to buy a firearm that required a background check was not implemented until 1993 (the Brady Bill), there was no functional national criminal background check system (NCIC) until 1998, and before the Assault Weapons Ban (1994-2004) one could purchase an assault rifle (AK 47, FAL, HK, M16) with a driver’s license and no waiting period.

Yet, mass-shootings with assault rifles was practically non-existent.

Obviously, the guns have not changed.  Perhaps, as I have argued elsewhere on this page, maybe the problem lies with those who wield the firearms, and not the firearms themselves.

Therefore, I take exception at the apparent, and in my view gratuitous, statement by “David Chipman, a senior policy adviser at Giffords [a gun control group] and former [ATF] agent, who said the killing efficiency of military-style guns with high capacity magazines makes them inappropriate for civilian use” (italics mine).

I may have misgivings about assault weapons in the hands of civilians, but I am sure as hell that neither Mr. Chipman nor I  can say what type of weapon is “inappropriate” for a civilian to own according to the 2nd amendment.