About a year ago, a 19-year-old came into a high school in Saint Louis, Missouri, and opened fire, killing two people.
We covered it a bit because, well, it sparked a lot of people demanding that the state pass gun control. A red flag law in particular.
Why? Because the kid did something awful.
But here’s the thing. Missouri didn’t pass anything, and those same people are upset about it.
The shooter’s family knew he had mental health issues, said Michael Sack, then the interim police chief.
They regularly monitored his mail and checked his room. He had been committed in the past for inpatient treatment.
“Whenever they noticed him stepping out of line or going out of turn they always worked to get him back on his medication, back on therapy, whatever he needed,” he said.
And when family members became aware he had a gun — the same one later used in the shooting — they called police.
“The mother wanted it out of the house,” Sack said. But, Missouri doesn’t have a way for police to seize firearms from people who could be a threat to themselves or others — what’s known as a red flag law.
The most they could do was transfer the gun to an adult who could legally have it.
“I’ve got to give credit to the family. They made every effort that they felt that they reasonably could,” Sack said. “And I think that’s why the mother is so heartbroken for the families that paid for his episode.”
Now, this would appear to be a prime reason to pass a red flag law. After all, the family wanted it gone, saw their loved one as a risk, and were powerless to do so.
But let’s also consider a few important facts missing from this anti-gun screed masquerading as a news report–seriously, go read the whole thing and you’ll see my assessment is right.
First, despite the supposedly constant concerns about safety, there’s no sign the mother tried to use what current laws were available to her to disarm her son. If he was that bad, why not get the courts involved with what could be done such as having him adjudicated as “mentally defective” which would bar him from ever owning a gun?
That law exists already and there’s no suggestion the parents ever explored it.
Second, let’s remember that while it’s easy to look at a case like this and think that a red flag law might have helped, there’s no guarantee it would have.
What we do know about red flag laws, though, is that people are urged to use them for every suspicion, which results in a lot of innocent people being disarmed. That never makes it into these stories, though, now does it?
Nor does it account for the fact that this particular gunman actually lost his weapon and somehow got it back.
Missouri didn’t pass a pile of gun control after Saint Louis because the issue wasn’t gun control. The issue was a very disturbed young man who lashed out at his former high school.
We can’t fix that problem nor can we keep guns out of the hands of those determined to cause harm.
Missouri understood that and made the right call. It’s not one that’s popular with certain crowds, but nothing short of disarmament of all private citizens would really make them happy.