So-called “red flag” laws are popping up all over the country. These laws make it easier to take away guns from people who are deemed to be a threat to harm themselves or others — someone whose actions or words raise a red flag.
Nine states have passed laws over the past year allowing police or household members to seek court orders requiring people deemed threatening to temporarily surrender their guns, bringing the total to 14, according to an Associated Press article last week in the Idaho Press.
More than 1,700 orders allowing guns to be seized for weeks, months or up to a year were issued in 2018 by the courts, according to data from several states obtained by The Associated Press.
Such laws might seem anathema to a gun-friendly state like Idaho. In fact, the Second Amendment Alliance is working hard to make sure such laws never see the light of day in Idaho.
But Idaho has a problem of intimate partner murder-suicides. Red flag laws could help solve that problem.
Idaho had 17 intimate partner murder-suicide-related deaths from January to November of 2018 alone. There were 17 in 2017; 10 in 2016; and six in 2015.
Idaho has a higher-than-average rate of intimate partner murder-suicides, which make up 65 percent of all murder-suicides nationally.
In all, 11 Treasure Valley residents have died by murder-suicide in the past year, alone. Meridian itself has seen three murder-suicide cases since July.
This is a problem.
We hear the arguments against such laws, primarily concerns over due process. As the argument goes, anyone could make an accusation against someone, and the police would come and take their guns away, whether the accusation were true or not.
But a strong vetting process by a judge before issuing an order to seize someone’s guns would provide that measure of due process. Further, such orders would be temporary, meaning the suspect would get his or her guns back at some point. It would simply provide enough time to defuse an escalating domestic violence situation.
It likely would have helped in the most recent murder-suicide, in which Heidi De Leon, 40, and her husband, Jose Pablo Diaz De Leon, 47, were killed by Heidi De Leon’s ex-husband, Edward Lynn Epps Jr., who then killed himself in a house in Meridian in January.
Heidi DeLeon had reported that at one point, Epps “got a gun and put it to my chest and said if I don’t do what he asks then he’ll kill me.”
At that point, a red flag law could have helped. If Heidi De Leon had reported this incident to police, police could have gotten a court order to seize Epps’ guns, taking away an avenue for Epps to later shoot and kill his wife, her husband and himself.
We have trouble buying the argument that even if you take away someone’s guns, they’ll just find a way to get a gun anyway.
We don’t think that’s a reason to then just not have a law at all. Why do we have any laws, then? Why not get rid of speeding laws or drug laws or, for that matter, murder laws? Having a law against murder isn’t going to stop a bad guy from committing murder, so let’s just get rid of all laws outlawing murder? The argument just doesn’t make sense.
We know this would be like pushing water uphill.
The Idaho Legislature can’t even get its domestic violence gun laws to match up with federal law.
State Rep. Melissa Wintrow, D-Boise, sponsored a bill last year to take away gun rights, for two years, from people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence. That bill passed committee but failed on a 39-31 vote in the House last year.
The Idaho Attorney General’s Office said the bill did not violate constitutional rights. Law enforcement agencies supported the bill, arguing it would help them better protect communities.
“We are saying if you’ve been convicted as a criminal, then you should not have a deadly weapon. That’s it,” Wintrow said at the time. “We could save lives.”
Twenty Republican members joined the House’s 11 Democratic members in support. But that still wasn’t enough.
We would be interested in hearing other solutions to the problem of intimate partner murder-suicides. In the meantime, “red flag” laws look like a viable alternative.