Bob Franken


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First of all, the “red flag” idea, by itself, is a mealy-mouthed approach to gun control. It takes its name from the idea that police or others in authority may seize deadly weapons when someone raises that “red flag,” a warning about an individual who is unstable and therefore, as the expression goes, “a danger to himself or others.” Usually, it nods to due process by requiring a judge to issue an order. It’s sort of like a warrant.
It’s a tiny first step, unless it would raise that red flag against anyone who is deemed dangerous simply because he possesses or wants to possess one of the AK-47-like assault rifles, which have become the go-to weapon for mass murderers. There is no reason to have them outside of a war zone, other than to have the ability to slaughter other civilian victims. Let’s call removing them entirely what it really is: justified confiscation. We need to aggressively take these killing machines out of our society, and attach severe penalties, including prison time, for the manufacture, sale or even having one of them.
Of course, nothing like that will happen. We have a political system that includes at least one party that rolls over in fear of offending the gun lobby. The National Rifle Association and other similar organizations come armed, so to speak, with the U.S. national insanity over gun ownership. People will die to protect their right to own weapons. Ultimately, Americans are only temporarily moved when people frequently die in large numbers after some pathetic but heavily armed person loses control of his resentments, acquires an assault rifle and ammo, and goes on a slaughtering rampage. There are two reactions. At first, as a nation, we indulge our instinct to protect our loved ones, and are horrified by the loss of life that accompanies one of these tragedies. But after a day or two, we instinctually switch to protecting our personal cache of weapons.

Our political leaders, particularly those who are bought and paid for by the gun lobby or who live in fear of offending the NRA in the slightest, do nothing. They can stall because they are correct in assuming that voters will quickly shift their focus to other outrages, at least until the next mass murder comes along. Sadly, they are coming more and more frequently in battleground America, especially with a president who uses anger and hate to hold power.
President Donald Trump did manage to restrain himself during his nearly secluded tour of the latest war zones: Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas. He suggested to reporters that he would consider expanding background checks. His Republican leadership enablers even said that they would allow legislation to be debated in the Senate. They have said so before and then simply waited until the furor died down. As for Trump, during his time on the ground he managed to avoid Twitter. He visited first responders and patients, although many in El Paso were unwilling to meet with him. But when he settled into his seat on the plane, his little tweeting fingers were rested and ready to go. First, he attacked Ohio Democrats for misrepresenting his private time with shooting victims. What was so puzzling about that is that they had complimented him on his demeanor. Soon again he went on the attack against those who would dare question him and his divisive rhetoric, often using blatantly racist vitriol.
Actually, he told dumbfounded reporters on his tour of the latest American killing fields that he believed his rhetoric “brings people together.” Which brings an interesting question to the whole debate over “red flag” laws designed to take weapons away from those who might harm themselves or their community because of mental health issues: What about Donald Trump’s grasp on reality? Should he be allowed to be armed? Or is this finally a red flag for the voters who will soon decide whether to re-elect him?

© 2019 Bob Franken
Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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