A policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation says "red flag" laws, if not written well, tend to violate people's fundamental rights under the U.S. Constitution – which is why she has a problem with what's happening in the Virginia legislature.
The Virginia Senate has passed legislation calling for a red flag law, but not everyone is on board with the legislation. Supporters of red flag laws say they're meant to disarm individuals who are believed to be dangerous or are showing they're a danger to themselves or others.
Amy Swearer is senior legal policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation, a center-right think tank in Washington, DC. She says there's nothing wrong with that mindset – but the problem with these types of laws, she argues, is that they lend themselves to due process violations if they're not written well.
"So, here what you see is that there's very low burdens of proof," Swearer begins. "That means it's very, very easy to sort of take guns first and ask questions later, which is not something that we should be doing when we're talking about restricting fundamental rights like the right to keep and bear arms."
Swearer hopes the Virginia House of Delegates will make "good improvements" to the legislation, sending it back to the Senate.
"It seems right now that the bill that came out of the Senate, again, just has some problematic language that … makes it very, very easy to take guns first without actually giving that person a hearing before taking those guns," she offers.
Virginia would not be the only state with a red flag law. Similar statutes can be found in other parts of the country. Swearer also sees problems in those laws.
"Even if you're not a gun owner and you don't necessarily care about the rights of gun owners, it's important that you pay attention to these situations. Because any time that we start making it acceptable for the government to … ignore due process for any fundamental right – whether it's the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, the Fourth Amendment – it becomes that much easier for government to say, 'Well, you know, we sort of infringed on those rights in other places, and so we can do it here too,'" Sweater explains.
"So, it's important that we make sure that all of our fundamental constitutional rights are protected at an equal level so that we don't have to keep playing this game and having this battle every single time the government wants to infringe on one right or the other."