President Donald Trump thinks that CNN news anchor Chris Cuomo is too dangerous to have guns and might need to be forcibly disarmed.
Yesterday, video surfaced which showed Cuomo—a frequent Trump critic and brother of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo—berating two men out in public who called him Fredo, a term he alleged was an anti-Italian slur akin to the n-word.
"I'll fuckin' ruin your shit. I'll fucking throw you down these stairs," Cuomo said at one point during the two-minute video, which was reportedly recorded this past Sunday.
This morning Trump seized on the outburst from one of his prominent media critics by tweeting out a suggestion that "red flag" laws might allow the seizure of Cuomo's guns.
Would Chris Cuomo be given a Red Flag for his recent rant? Filthy language and a total loss of control. He shouldn't be allowed to have any weapon. He's nuts!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 13, 2019
These laws have been adopted in 17 states, most of which passed them after the 2018 Parkland shooting. The specifics of these laws vary, but they generally allow family and law enforcement to petition a court to order the temporary confiscation of a person's guns if they exhibit signs that they will hurt themselves or others.
Following the most recent shootings in El Paso and Dayton, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R–S.C.) said he will introduce a bill that would award grants to states to help them set up their own red flag laws. Graham says Trump supports the bill.
Red flag laws are becoming an increasingly popular piece of legislation among both liberals and conservatives as a way of getting guns out of the hands of potential mass shooters.
As Reason's Jacob Sullum has argued, these laws often deprive lawful gun owners of meaningful due process rights.
Depending on the state, a wide number of people are able to petition to take someone's guns away. These petitions can often be decided in ex parte hearings where the person whose weapons might be seized isn't present. Even if they are present at one of these hearings, most states do not guarantee them legal representation.
In addition, the lack of truly objective standards for who might be a risk to themselves or others will lead judges to confiscate too many guns, writes Sullum, saying that "when standards are amorphous, judges are especially likely to err on the side of issuing orders, because they imagine that failing to do so could lead to terrible consequences."
Meanwhile, Trump's tweet highlights a different risk of red flag laws: that politicians or law enforcement will let their own petty feuds and emotions influence who they decide to disarm. Invoking red flag laws to disarm one's critics, as Trump has suggested, borders on tyrannical.
A good rule of thumb when evaluating a new law is whether you'd want your worst political enemy to be in charge of its enforcement. In the case of red flag laws, do we want Trump in charge of deciding who's too crazy to own a gun?