Red flag laws struck a nerve among gun owners. These laws allow police to temporarily seize someone’s firearms without due process based on reports suggesting a “dangerous” mindset. This goes beyond the Supreme Court’s 1968 Terry v. Ohio decision authorizing police to temporarily detain and frisk a suspicious character without a warrant.

Jay Gaskill

Jay Gaskill

Modern law enforcement agencies can share pictures, social media information, threats and other vital information in seconds. The Terry doctrine and technology empower police to locate potential killers as soon as dangerous characters are brought to their attention and to track them without eavesdropping.

Law enforcement is not paralyzed. The constitution and common sense are not in conflict.

Close, continuing surveillance and tracking work. Police don’t need to seize a person’s legally acquired firearms without probable cause of criminal activity in order to protect public safety.

Because tech matters and facilities matter, I support a new Idaho Falls Police Department station. Rapid response requires that the local police operate in a hi-tech facility, ideally in the same quarters.

A full-on search requires a warrant. Well trained officers can develop additional information during a stop and a search can follow. Police should pay close, ongoing attention to suspicious behavior, especially actions that are potentially dangerous to public safety. Any heavily armed person headed to a public gathering is a flashing red light. Someone in the vicinity of a school, for example, who seems heavily armed, can legally be detained to assess the threat.

Red flag laws are initiated by private civilian reports. The gun control controversy erupted because red flag laws authorize the seizure of weapons without due process. In my opinion, red flag laws unnecessarily misallocate police resources. Must we wait while politicians debate changes in the law? Smart, proactive law enforcement, actively cooperating and communicating possible threats across agencies and jurisdictional lines will save lives.

If red flag laws are not necessary to track possible threats and aggressively contain them, what is missing? More informed civilian input, better training, better protocols, more hi-tech tracking (using facial recognition tech), more rapid interagency responses and better profiling.

Given all the notorious mass shootings, one question remains: What is the profile of someone who should be flagged by law enforcement?

Common sense and the findings of forensic psychology narrow the field. Most mass shootings involve perpetrators who assume they will die, even plan to do so. As a criminal trial lawyer who worked with forensic psychologists over the decades (among them, Dr. Martin Blinder) I’ve repeatedly researched this topic.

There is a deep psychological link between anger, suicide and murder. Check out the term malignant narcissism. In this mindset, the world is unfair because the amazing qualities of a potential killer, the center of the universe, are unrecognized. Eventually, a grand, violent exit is planned. The killer imagines canceling the world in glory. Think of those partiers in 2017 Las Vegas. Murder, in a grand, bloody suicidal gesture. Suicidal grievance mirrors the same twisted logic.

Stay alert.

Jay Gaskill, an Idaho native, served for 10 years as the head public defender for Alameda County in Oakland, California, following his career as a criminal trial and appellate lawyer. He and his wife, Robyn now live in their hometown, Idaho Falls.