Sunday, June 04, 2023

Gov. Lee says the NRA wants “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties.”

by Rod Williams, June 4, 2023- As reported in HuffPost, Gov. Bill Lee’s administration has accused the National Rifle Association of wanting to use involuntary commitment laws “to round up mentally ill people and deprive them of other liberties." This is supported by a staffer memo the Huffpost obtained through a Freedom of Information request. 

In the past, Lee has praised the NRA for defending the second amendment and the NRA has praised Lee for his policies. In 2021 Lee advocated a change in the law that allowed anyone over the age of 21 to carry a gun without a permit. The NRA supported the move and praised Lee.

Lee's proposal to explore public safety options following the tragic Covenant School shooting has put him at odds the organization. Lee has proposed a law that would enhance orders of protection and allow guns to be taken away from a person who is a risk to themselves or others. This is similar to what other states call "red flag" laws, but Lee does not call it that. In any event, the NRA is opposed to Lee's proposal.  Lee has called for a special session to consider the proposal and it appears the majority of the legislature opposes a special session. 

The NRA's in opposing Lee's enhanced order of protection proposal and has instead called for "involuntary commitment."  Rather than take a weapon away from a mentally unstable person, the NRA wants to lock them up. 

When I first heard of Lee's proposal, I had reservations that such a law may not provide for due process. It appears from the internal memo that what Lee proposes does. Nevertheless, to deprive another of a fundamental right is a serious matter and once an actual proposed law is drafted it needs to be carefully examined. I support a special session to consider the proposal and with adequate due process safeguards in place and a penalty for malicious misuse of the law, I would support it. 

If I have concerns about the misuse of an enhanced order of protection law, then I have much more concern about a proposal to lock up mentally ill people without their consent. Being deprived of all liberty is worse than being temporarily having your Second Amendment rights suspended. Lee said much the same thing, saying, “Some advocates of the Second Amendment say something called ‘involuntary commitment’ is the answer, but that would restrict all kinds of constitutional rights, including the Second Amendment. It’s not the best way.”

I appreciate Lee's willingness to take on the NRA.  Many gun rights advocates are not just pro Second Amendment but are willing to trample other rights in the name of the Second Amendment.  In recent years this has been illustrated by laws that prohibit a private company from prohibiting their employees from bringing guns onto their employers' property. That is a case of trampling property rights in the name of gun rights and has nothing to do with the Second Amendment. The fetish for gun rights has gone far beyond the Second Amendment. Now, in the name of protecting the Second Amendment, the NRA advocates the locking up of mentally ill people without their consent. It seems the NRA is only concerned with one right and has a distorted view of that one. 

Below are portions of the internal memo regarding the enhanced order of protection. 

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