Arizona Sheriffs, Governor Ducey Speak Out In Opposition To Red Flag Laws

Members of the Arizona Sheriff’s Association at the Arizona Capitol in January. [Photo courtesy Arizona Sheriff’s Association]

ARIZONA – The Arizona Sheriff’s Association issued a statement on Thursday in opposition to what are known as “red flag laws.” The organization, headed up by Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll represents elected Sheriffs from all 15 counties in Arizona.

“Red flag laws” allow government agencies to temporarily suspend the gun rights of people like those subject to domestic violence orders of protection.

Also this week, Governor Doug Ducey while in Lake Havasu City, told a group of Republicans that he will not allow “red flag laws” be enacted during his tenure. Ducey had previously supported a bill that was essentially a “red flag law,” however it died in the Arizona Legislature.

Last week, Apache County joined Yavapai, Mohave and La Paz counties in declaring itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary County.” According to the White Mountain Independent, the declaration is designed to “prevent the implementation of any gun control measures that make it through Congress or the state legislatures.”

Arizona County Sheriff’s statement:

Arizona Sheriff’s Association
Apache County Sheriff Joe Dedman

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels

Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll

Gila County Sheriff Adam Shepherd

Graham County Sheriff Preston “PJ” Allred

Greenlee County Sheriff Tim Sumner

La Paz County Sheriff Bill Risen

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone

Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster

Navajo County Sheriff David Clouse

Pima County Sheriff Mark Napier

Pinal County Sheriff Mark Lamb

Santa Cruz County Sheriff Tony Estrada

Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher

Yuma County Sheriff Leon Wilmot

Arizona Sheriffs have been asked if they support Red Flag Laws. The short answer is no. Red Flag Laws as we currently conceptualize them are problematic for many reasons.

First, they erode due process. People of all political stripes should embrace due process. As currently framed, there are not enough due process checks/balances in Red Flag Laws. This is an important consideration as the lack of due process affects a constitutional right under the Second Amendment.

Second, what defines mental illness or being dangerous and who defines it? This is a serious question that must be more thoroughly addressed.

Further, what is the barometer for these conclusions and what expertise does the declarant have for making them? This slippery slope should concern all of us. Over time and through societal changes we have experienced many evolutions with respect to what constitutes mental illness and a danger to society. What might that standard be in five years and whom may be deciding it? None of us can know that.

Third, laws already exist that do remove the right to possess firearms from persons adjudicated as dangerous or suffering mental illness. We should enforce the laws we have.

As your elected law enforcement professionals, we most certainly share the justifiable concern over gun violence, and in fact all violence. We do! Many of you read about it in the paper…as Sheriffs we live it, see it, and experience it firsthand. One violent death is too many. That bears repeating…one death is too many. The problem is far more complex than the availability of firearms. We need to attack root causes of gun violence and larger societal issues regarding a lack of respect for life, incivility, how we treat mental illness, a culture that celebrates violence, racial injustice, poverty, substance abuse, and other contributory factors. We should pursue these issues in a bipartisan and collaborative manner.

Red Flag Laws, you could argue, are well-intended and are a necessary tool. We know many of you strongly do not think so, while others passionately support them. Our objection is that they are the wrong tool to truly address gun violence.

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