By Michael G. Maness
CHESTER – Chester mayor Floyd Petri submitted an anti-red flag ordinance at the regular city council meeting on Monday, Jan. 7. Red flag laws justify law enforcement officers taking guns from citizens on a court order without evidence of a crime.
At first, Petri thought there might have been commotion stirred over a Facebook post, which led some to think he was proposing a pro-red flag ordinance. He smiled and shook his head and said some wanted to “re-elect the whole council.” He corrected the misconception that apparently worked as no guests showed up for the meeting.
Petri felt this city ordinance would be a proactive caution, letting others “know where they stand,” and an ordinance could be a valuable defense should abuse from a county or state red flag law ever invade the rights of the citizens of Chester. He cited concern about abuses of the law in other areas, including some documented cases of gun seizures without due process,
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R, FL) submitted SB 2607 in March of 2018, titled “Extreme Risk Protection Order and Violence Prevention Act of 2018,” and by April it had four cosponsors (3 D, 1 R, 1 I). It has not come out of the Judiciary Committee. The act mirrors aspects of protective orders on the books and is designed to encourage states to adopt such laws with the controversial confiscation of guns for the term of the “protective order.”
The part of the act that scares gun enthusiasts is that an anonymous person can call, express a fear of someone and a judge issue a rather quick order that empowers law enforcement to show up and remove all of the person’s guns.
As soon as July 2018, as reported in the Texas Tribune, Gov. Greg Abbott asked legislators to review protective order laws to protect schools. Abbott made clear he was not endorsing red flag laws, only suggesting the law makers look at all laws on school safety.
The issue is getting guns out of the hands of the mentally ill, and discussion of the act has frequently cited the church shooting in Sutherland Springs, and the school shooting in Parkland, FL last year. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has also been dead set against red flag laws.
Furthermore, the 2018 GOP platform was specifically against red flag laws under its major section on constitutional rights. No person should be deprived of their right to guns without conviction of a crime or certified mental instability, nor should they be “investigated” by law enforcement or be forced to “appear before a judge” without solid evidence of a crime.
Petri said he had no problems with protective orders, as a long-time law officer himself, but reports of “perversion of the law” have already surfaced on red flag law abuse. Petri said he does not want any citizen’s rights abused.
Several councilmembers had not read the lengthy ordinance. Councilwoman Gail Williams asked about the need for such an ordinance and said they should have legal counsel on what they could or could not do. The council tabled the ordinance for further consideration until next month’s meeting.
The council approved the year’s budget presented by City Secretary Annette Hickman, which was essentially the same as last year. The council approved the minutes and financials without comment.
Dale Clamon, Director of Public Works, explained the need for a dump trailer, especially since the upcoming resurfacing of a highway will yield a lot of extra material the city can obtain for a song and use later for its own roads. The council empowered him to search out purchase options to present at the next council meeting.
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