Politicians, including some Republicans, are calling for gun control after a recent spate of mass shootings, particularly last week’s involving a killer who shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Texas. Gov. Doug Ducey pushed for “red flag” gun control laws previously, including in 2019 after two mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, and indicated this week he may renew that effort. The Arizona Citizens’ Defense League (AZCDL) immediately sent out 53,000 email alerts.
“Politicians like Ducey are dancing in the blood of victims as opposed to saving people’s lives,” AZCDL Coordinator Charles Heller told The Arizona Sun Times. “We need to stop the psychopaths who are doing this, by taking action like implementing FASTER, which trains staff at schools to arm themselves after proper training. Ducey’s statement was not a profile in courage,” said Heller.
Ducey’s press aide, C.J. Karamargin, told Capitol Media on Wednesday, “We thought it was good policy then. We still do. And we remain committed to measures to increase school safety.”
Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection order laws, are gun control laws that permit police or family members to petition a state court to order the temporary removal of firearms from a person they believe is displaying “red flags:” signs they may present a danger to others or themselves. Second Amendment supporters object to them because they fail to provide due process to those accused – they are not charged with a crime and allowed a trial that finds them guilty before depriving them of their right to keep and bear arms. Signs of red flags could be false positives, leaving people unable to protect themselves.
The NRA has come under criticism from Second Amendment organizations for supporting some red flag laws, including the one suggested by Ducey. Due to the NRA’s support, plus some tweaking to the legislation by conservative lawmakers, Republicans in the Arizona Legislature supported Ducey’s 2018 bill, while Democrats opposed, it, but ultimately Republicans defeated it by failing to transfer it to the House.
Ducey proposed a red flag law known as STOP orders as part of his Safe Arizona Schools plan in 2018. It provided more protections for gun owners than most red flag legislation. Family members, teachers, school administrators, social workers, mental health professionals and others could get firearms taken away from someone if the judge found “clear and convincing evidence; proof that exhibits substantially more than a 50% likelihood of a severe threat.” Law enforcement only needed to show probable cause to a judge. Individuals who make false accusations face a Class 5 felony. Conservative Republican legislators added language that required a hearing before anyone was forced to undergo a behavioral-health evaluation and surrender their guns.
In August 2019, he renewed his call for red flag legislation after the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, echoing former President Donald Trump’s statements. A spokesperson issued a statement to 12 News in 2019, referencing Trump, “Support from President Trump and Congressional leaders for ‘red flag’ laws is important, and it’s a common-sense approach to protect public safety. This is an idea that’s time has come, and we remain hopeful both sides can come together to advance commonsense policies that make a meaningful impact.” Trump also came under significant criticism from Second Amendment supporters for supporting red flag laws. However, he reversed that position a few months later.
After Ducey was heckled at the Arizona Republican Party’s annual meeting in January 2020 by protesters chanting “No Red Flags,” Ducey changed his position. He said during a speech at Lake Havasu City a few weeks later, “As long as I am governor, there will be no red flag law in the State of Arizona.”
Since it’s too late to propose a new bill, Ducey would need to use a strike all bill or call a special session. However, he does not have the votes in the legislature to get a red flag law passed, Heller said. Heller said he could try and sign an executive order, but according to the communications director, that would violate Arizona’s state constitution. Also, Heller said he believes once Arizonans begin flooding Ducey and the legislature with phone calls and emails, Ducey will not try to push anything through.
Alan Korwin, the author of Arizona’s Guide to Gun Laws and other books about gun laws, told the Sun Times the problem with red flag laws is “they turn us all into a batch of snitches.” He speculated, “If my neighbor, who is left wing and paranoid, and knows I write about gun laws, decides to call the police about me, the police could act on it. A mere accusation from a nutcase, a person with an ax to grind, or a disgruntled partner could remove our protection with no due process. You have no chance to challenge it.”
Korwin believes its irrational to support a law that is so poorly thought out. He believes it stems from a medical issue known as “hoplaphobia,” a morbid fear of weapons. He explained, “They think since they have no impulse control, you don’t either.”
He said, “The media hasn’t stopped talking ab0ut a small number of people killed in mass shootings, while they ignore the nearly 10,000 blacks who were shot and killed last year, as if their black lives don’t matter. And that number has gone up significantly, about 8,000 were killed the year before. I tell people I am in favor of total disarmament — if we disarm the criminals first.”
Korwin said the solution lies in looking into why “children are becoming homicidal maniacs.” Video games and HIPAA laws that prevent medical information from being released to the appropriate people should be looked at, he suggested. “Red flag laws are a seductive but deceptive fraud, because if somebody is really dangerous, we already have what we need to remove them or their guns from society.”
FASTER, which stands for Faculty & Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response, trains educators on how to stop school violence rapidly and render medical aid immediately. Heller said the vast majority of people killed in mass shootings don’t technically die from the shot, they die from bleeding out, so if someone is there on the scene to get them to a hospital within an hour, they have a 90% chance of surviving if they are still breathing when they reach the hospital (children have a slightly lesser chance of survival, since due to their small size the bullets affect them more seriously). In the Texas shooting last week, law enforcement remained outside the school for a full 45 minutes before entering. In the Columbine shooting, Heller said only two students shot by the gunmen died due to the bullet wounds, the rest bled out.
Heller said AZCDL Foundation recently started offering free FASTER training. It wouldn’t even cost the state money if teachers and school staff wanted to take advantage of it. Several states, including Texas, Colorado, and Ohio, already provide training for various government agencies including school districts, and Ohio funds the training.
Heller said AZCDL plans to focus on urging school districts in Arizona to implement FASTER training. The Tombstone Unified School District already permits teachers and staff to carry firearms. Posted signs state, “WARNING – Some T.U.S.D staff may be armed and will use whatever force necessary to protect our students.”
Heller said he believes Ducey doesn’t support FASTER because it does not involve law enforcement. Heller suspects certain law enforcement agencies have his ear and probably the Arizona Chamber of Commerce. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws.
Ducey’s office did not respond to the Sun Times for comment by the time this article went to publication.
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Rachel Alexander is a reporter at The Arizona Sun Times and The Star News Network. Follow Rachel on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Doug Ducey” and Background Photo “Arizona Capitol” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.