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Red flags: Due process in Portsmouth

March 07. 2018 12:04AM

Portsmouth Police Chief Robert Merner says he will not give Isaac Brake his guns back without a court order, even though Brake is not being charged with any crime after a standoff with police last month.

Brake’s mother called police saying her son “wants to die by death by cop.” Brake surrendered peacefully after hours of negotiations, and was hospitalized for evaluation. Police seized three pistols and two rifles.

If Brake asks the court for his firearms to be returned, Merner says he’ll argue against it because “I consider it a public safety threat.”

The case illustrates the need for due process when police suspect someone is a threat.

In Washington, senators are working on a “Red Flag” bill that would expand the use of extreme risk protection orders.

Much like an effort two years ago to prevent anyone on the so-called “Terrorist Watch List” from buying a gun, this effort can only work if it respects due process. There must be clear standards for when it applies, and a clear legal path to appeal.

The “Red Flag” approach concentrates on the real danger, unstable individuals, rather than on their guns. It is no criticism of Merner to say he alone should not determine when someone has become such a threat as to forfeit their Second Amendment rights.

Crime, law and justice Public Safety Gun Control Editorial

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