The latest criticism of President Trump now comes from conservatives who are complaining about his off-hand comment of wanting to remove guns from a suspect prior to getting a court order to officially do so.
What Trump said was that in a case of someone like the Parkland school shooter and his sixty-six prior visits from the police, if the person who got police attention is deemed to be a threat to himself or other people, the police should be able to remove the gun(s) as a preventive measure, and then get court approval later. In the case of the Florida school shooting conservatives criticize the local police and the FBI for not moving swiftly enough, after sixty-six prior visits from the police, to deprive the shooter of his guns. But maybe the police were following a precise policy of that jurisdiction and would have confiscated the shooter’s gun after the sixty-seventh police visit. But whether it takes six or sixty-six prior police visits to get a court order, this or any other process may take too long to save lives.
What Trump was saying is that if the police have reasonable suspicion that any given person is a danger, and I would say that threatening to become a school shooter is “reasonable” evidence, they should be able to, at least temporarily, remove the gun from the hands of the suspect. The police do this sort of thing all the time or we wouldn’t all be familiar with the phrase “drop it”.
The other side of this coin is that conservatives believe that the threat of gun violence comes not from the gun, but from the person wielding the gun. So it would be logical for conservatives to argue not that the gun should be confiscated, but that the suspected person should be locked up. After all, if you only take a gun from a suspect, he may well have another gun hidden that he could grab and start shooting, or he could easily borrow a gun or steal one from a neighbor. So, in addition to the police taking the gun that they can see, with this confiscation possibly doing no good at all except to enrage the potential shooter, conservatives don’t want people to be locked up until the legal process has been satisfied and some hard evidence presented as to the danger of the accused.
So if conservatives have any trust and faith at all in the police to protect us, they’d be more in line with their core beliefs to have a gun removed from a suspect, than to have the suspect locked up in a case where no crime has yet been committed. And I’d say that if the police had a report of a suspect stating that he would like to become a school shooter, and if when they visited him they had any suspicion that he was unstable or had too great a fascination with his guns, then they might be well advised to remove those guns until the situation could be fully investigated, especially if this were the sixty-sixth time this man had been questioned.
The conservative position is one of careful balance: the person using the gun is the threat, but we can’t just lock up, in Hitlerian or Stalinian fashion, one suspected of being unstable or dangerous, until the full legal process has been exhausted. But the Florida school shooting allows us to consider preemptive removal of the gun, which does not deprive the suspect of his personal liberty, until a court can decide the issue. And heaven help us all if a weapon is not confiscated for reasonable suspicion, as one can believe happened in the Parkland incident, and another school shooting occurs. We can’t stop off-the-wall shootings as happened in Las Vegas a few months ago, but if there is any foreknowledge of possible danger, we must act to remove that danger.Wake up Right! Subscribe to our Morning Briefing and get the news delivered to your inbox before breakfast!