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Red flag laws need the red flag

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According to Forbes.com, on Sept. 5, the Department of Justice requested from Apple and Google the names, phone numbers and IP addresses of at least 10,000 individuals who have downloaded and used an app that assists with a manufacturer’s firearm scope.

At first glance, this seems to be an overreach from the federal government. Never before has the government gone for a court order to obtain information such as this on such a large scale from Apple and Google. I will delve further into this shortly.

First, I need to relate this to the recent red flag laws that are being suggested from many politicians and activists.

The red flag laws are in response to the most recent mass shootings that have occurred.  Emotionally, they seem to be an appropriate response. In order to stop these types of tragedies, we all want something to be a solution, or even a partial solution. We find out current background checks haven’t worked in certain instances, or people skirted the system, avoiding background checks altogether. Something has to be done! 


But the red flag laws are not the answer. I know, some of you, are asking: “How can letting law enforcement know of potential issues with certain people not be at least part of the equation in preventing further tragedies?”

Well, my explanation is simple. One person’s red flag is another person’s rights. How many times have you read an article about someone apprehended and they had 1,000 rounds of ammo or more? Or maybe they had a dozen firearms on premises? Red flags, right?

Not necessarily.

It sounds extreme for people who do not own firearms, or only have a small caliber pistol for protection. But it isn’t extreme. Especially this time of year. Firearms have different uses, just as someone with a toolbox doesn’t have just one screwdriver sitting inside. Then, each firearm has different types of ammunition that can be used depending on the circumstance as well.

A 12-gauge shotgun can be used for big game hunting, bird hunting and small-game hunting. From that, one may need both buck shot and slugs for big game hunting, steel shot in several sizes for ducks, geese and swans and regular shot in several sizes for both dove and other upland birds and small game.

From just one firearm, you could have as many as 300 to 400 shells.

Someone unfamiliar could quickly see these boxes of ammo, along with boxes of .22, rounds for one or two pistols, and ammo for one or two rifles and maybe a 20-gauge or 16-gauge and become alerted.  And then someone completely within their rights gets hit with the red flag laws.

This is by no means a stretched scenario either. This would be common in just about any hunter that goes after more than one game animal.

God forbid, an activist that doesn’t believe in hunting gain political power, as then all hunters would be labeled under the red flag laws as potential threats. Don’t think it will happen? In New York, a news organization provided information on all the residents that had firearm permits as a warning to everyone. This is as much a breach of privacy as any HIPAA violation.

That brings us back to the original opening paragraph. There is a reason the DOJ wants the information on the ten thousand-plus people who have download that seemingly innocent app. The scope the app works with is regulated by the government and has been illegally exported to the United States and other countries. Since the app only works with that scope, it is a safe assumption that those who have downloaded it have obtained the scope illegally.

However, the magnitude and amount of information requested, down to the IP address which can track the location of the phone and obviously, the phone holder, can set a dangerous precedent. 

If red flag laws go into effect, it can easily become a situation where the government, both federal, state and local, can gain access to information on anyone for harmless occurrences of just downloading a popular video game over Playstation, Xbox, or cell phone device simply because someone has determined Call of Duty is too violent.

Bill Howard is an avid bowhunter and outdoorsman. He teaches hunter education (IHEA) and bowhunter education (IBEP) in North Carolina. He is a member of North Carolina Bowhunters Association and Pope & Young, and is an official measurer for both.