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Letter to the editor: May 16

Posted 5/16/23

Dear Editor:

I read with interest the opinion of Mr. Bo Gill, Chairman of the Bedford County Republican Party, published in your paper on May 13, 2023, contending “Red Flag Laws” …

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Letter to the editor: May 16


Dear Editor:

I read with interest the opinion of Mr. Bo Gill, Chairman of the Bedford County Republican Party, published in your paper on May 13, 2023, contending “Red Flag Laws” authorizing the seizure of firearms from people suspected of posing a threat to themselves or others are unconstitutional and, even if not, are nevertheless ineffective in preventing gun violence as well as fundamentally unfair or un-American because such laws infringe the liberty of Americans.

But “Red Flag Laws” are constitutional under both the Second Amendment of the U. S. Constitution and under Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution. Why?

The Second Amendment refers to its legitimacy as a “well-regulated militia.”

On September 25, 1789, when Congress first proposed this Amendment to the legislatures of the several States, a militia was “well regulated” if it, as the Tennessee National Guard does now, had preparedness, training, and background checks. Background checks? Yes, of course, to require the new nation be defended by sane soldiers and to ferret out British, and even Canadian, spies. That the purpose of such checks for firearms regulation has changed over 234 years from spying to, for example, scrutinizing mentally disordered people today is a trifling change compared to the basic fear of whatever is crazy soldiering and gun-carrying has always involved (Western) civilization with.  

The Tennessee Constitution declares “The Legislature shall have the power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime.” Surely American liberty does not include any right to “wear arms” to terrorize people or to pursue “private assassination.” Long ago the Tennessee Supreme Court opined as much, and repeatedly. To say “Red Flag Laws” are unconstitutional is to ignore the express power the Tennessee Constitution has granted to the Legislature to take a view to prevent crime and, therefore, to regulate how firearms may be worn by a 27-year-old disaffected former student at Covenant School in Nashville who murdered several people with an assault rifle this spring.

But let us not dwell at macabre length on emotions cascading in rivers of tears from one horrific episode. Let us turn to a congregation at worship in Antioch, Tennessee, being gunned down and horrified further. How many scores of more episodes of mass killing of innocent people have there been already in our country? And how many others will be before us in the future? For surely there are no politically-imposed limits to be set upon the number of actually deranged people in our society.

Does any civilized state educate its children to be civilized when those children (as well as adult educators and support personnel) are haunted by persistent fear of mass murder? How much does it take in sorrow, pain, death, and disgust for the Legislature to act? As Mr. Gill, to his credit, noted in his letter, other Republican Party county chairmen think differently from him about “Red Flag Laws” and say “ENOUGH!”


William Prentice Cooper

Prospect Hill

Nashville, TN


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  • James Gill

    Mr. Cooper,

    "Red Flag Laws" generally refer to state laws that allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals who are deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others. These laws vary by state and often involve a judicial process where a court determines if someone's access to firearms should be restricted.

    When evaluating the constitutionality of Red Flag Laws, two key provisions are typically considered: the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and relevant provisions within state constitutions. However, it's important to note that courts ultimately decide the constitutionality of specific laws, and their interpretations can vary.

    Second Amendment: The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects the right to bear arms. However, the Supreme Court has recognized that this right is not absolute and can be subject to reasonable regulations. Whether Red Flag Laws are constitutional under the Second Amendment depends on how they are implemented and whether they strike the appropriate balance between public safety and individual rights. Courts have not yet reached a consensus on this issue, as it is a relatively recent development.

    Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution: This provision states, "That the citizens of this State have a right to keep and to bear arms for their common defense; but the Legislature shall have power, by law, to regulate the wearing of arms with a view to prevent crime." The specific language in state constitutions can influence the interpretation of firearm regulations within each state. The constitutionality of Red Flag Laws under the Tennessee Constitution would depend on how courts interpret the balance between the right to bear arms and the state's power to regulate firearms to prevent crime.

    While some individuals argue that "Red Flag Laws" may be unconstitutional under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and Article I, Section 26 of the Tennessee Constitution, it's important to note that court interpretations can vary, and there are differing opinions on the matter. That said, here are a few reasons some people believe these laws may be considered unconstitutional:

    1. Second Amendment: Some opponents argue that Red Flag Laws infringe upon an individual's right to keep and bear arms, as protected by the Second Amendment. They contend that these laws allow for the temporary confiscation of firearms without due process or a conviction of a crime, which they argue violates an individual's rights.

    2. Due Process Concerns: Critics of Red Flag Laws often emphasize the importance of due process guaranteed by the Constitution. They argue that these laws, which allow for the removal of firearms based on a judge's order, may violate an individual's right to due process by potentially depriving them of their property without a fair hearing or the opportunity to present their case.

    3. Potential for Abuse: Opponents express concerns about the potential for misuse or abuse of Red Flag Laws. They worry that false or malicious claims could result in individuals having their firearms confiscated unjustly. This, they argue, could violate both the Second Amendment and an individual's right to be free from unwarranted government intrusion.

    4. Lack of Mental Health Evaluation: Critics also point out that Red Flag Laws may not adequately address the underlying issues that lead to potential threats. They argue that the focus should be on providing mental health evaluations and appropriate interventions rather than solely removing firearms, as the laws primarily target the means rather than the cause of potential harm.

    It's important to note that while these reasons are often cited by opponents, there are also arguments in favor of Red Flag Laws that emphasize public safety and the prevention of potential harm. Ultimately, the constitutionality of these laws is subject to interpretation by the courts, and their decisions can vary based on specific cases and legal analysis.

    Bo Gill

    Chairman--Bedford County Republican Party

    Tuesday, May 16 Report this