Presidential candidate Kamala Harris said this week that, if elected president, she would enact so-called “red flag” legislation that would allow law enforcement to temporarily seize the weapons of white nationalists, if they’re deemed a legitimate threat.
As The L.A. Times reports, “red flag” laws allow courts to temporarily seize the firearms of someone who is deemed to be a danger to themselves or others. As of this writing, 17 states and the District of Columbia have passed such laws, also sometimes called “extreme measures” laws.
The details vary from state to state, but in general, only specific people, such as family members or housemates, can petition the court to have a person’s firearms seized. Also varying from state to state is how long a person’s firearms can be kept from them.
Now, as Yahoo News reports, Kamala Harris wants those laws to extend to white nationalists who may be on the verge of committing a hate crime.
“We need to take action to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people and stop violent, hate-fueled attacks before they happen. By focusing on confronting these domestic terror threats, we can save lives,” she said.
On her website, Harris references the recent mass shootings in Gilroy, California; Dayton, Ohio; and El Paso, Texas — the last one allegedly carried out by a man with a vendetta against Mexicans. She then details how she intends to give the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC) more power to analyze data for white supremacist threats.
— The Hill (@thehill) August 15, 2019
Matt Olsen, former director of the National Counterterrorism Center during the Obama administration, points out what could be a problem in Harris’ plan: that of the First Amendment. The line between a terrorist threat and protected free speech can be a thin one indeed, and Olsen said that Harris’ proposal isn’t likely to get much political traction unless it includes language that prevents someone’s guns from being taken from them simply because they espouse white supremacist views.
Clay Calvert, a journalism professor at the University of Florida, explains via Mother Jones that in states that have red flag laws, courts are loathe to deny a person access to their guns based on their online posts. Specifically, courts have to determine just how real a supposed threat really is.
“The more specific the [online] posts are, the more permissible it is to issue one of these orders against a person and remove their guns,” Calvert explains.
Beyond tying white supremacy to red-flag gun laws, Harris’ ambitious plan to combat violent white supremacy includes other measures as well. On of her proposals, for example, includes devoting an extra $2 billion to “investigate, disrupt, and prosecute domestic terrorists,” she says on her website.