Flags tend not to be useful if they’re not seen. In New York, laws that allowed authorities to seek orders to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people have existed for about a decade, including the contemporary so-called red flag laws enacted in 2019. Still, in NYC in particular, they were mostly nowhere to be seen.
In the aftermath of new requirements enacted last year, it’s promising that local district attorneys are using the laws for their intended purpose. The news website The City reports that a total of 53 such orders have been obtained starting last August, in comparison to only six in the years prior. Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon leads the pack with 35 of the orders; kudos to him.
Let’s understand what these laws are, and what they are not: they — temporarily, and with the signoff of a judge — prevent someone from buying or possessing firearms. They do not deprive anyone of their physical liberty, prevent them from going about their daily lives, or take away crucial implements of contemporary life.
We certainly don’t accept that someone under reasonable suspicion of being an unsafe driver keeps operating a car until they hurt or kill themselves or someone else, and there’s a much thinner argument to be made that anyone needs a gun in the way they might need a vehicle. Yes, a right to a car is not enshrined in the Constitution, but only fundamentally unserious people argue that the Second Amendment places no limits whatsoever on anyone’s right to possess a gun.
In tandem with the Supreme Court’s welcome decision to allow New York state to keep implementing its new sensible gun laws — laws which were still only needed in the first place due to the high court striking down the state’s existing possession law — New York is proving that it can adapt to changing circumstances and take real steps to protect the population from the consequences of a population awash in guns.