For an alternate viewpoint, see “Point: Addressing Gun Violence: Beyond the Mental Health Rhetoric

In the aftermath of a tragedy, the search for solutions can often lead to extreme measures.

The recent heartbreaking shooting in Maine has left my fellow New Englanders grieving from an extraordinary loss. It’s a harsh reminder of the profound impact of senseless violence. However, the key to reducing gun violence doesn’t lie in restricting law-abiding citizens’ self-defense rights through more laws on top of the hundreds of existing federal and state laws across the nation.

Instead, our nation looks to the approach we take in neighboring New Hampshire. In the Granite State, we focus on bolstering the enforcement of our existing laws and providing more mental health support for those at risk of violence.

Red flag laws, which allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals considered to be a threat to themselves or others, are touted as a means to enhance public safety. However, many question their effectiveness and disapprove of infringing on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.

The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly emphasized the importance of upholding the Second Amendment, ruling that certain gun restrictions are unconstitutional. Furthermore, recent federal court decisions have blocked California’s assault weapon ban, highlighting the potential for well-intentioned laws to have unintended consequences. That backdrop underscores the need for a thoughtful evaluation of any new law’s impact on constitutional rights.

More gun restrictions don’t automatically lead to safer communities. Just look at many of our nation’s cities and states with the largest number of gun laws that have some of the nation’s highest rates of gun violence.

One major issue raising questions about red flag laws is their broad scope, which often results in infringing on individuals’ rights. These laws have been criticized for their lack of specificity and potential for misuse. When red flag warnings prioritize appeasement over addressing root causes, they may lead to unjust violations of an individual’s Second Amendment rights. The risk of false accusations or the weaponization of these laws against innocent individuals is a legitimate concern that cannot be ignored.

Another issue that requires serious attention is the abysmal rate at which the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes gun crimes. While red flag laws may be touted as a solution to gun violence, it is essential to address the systemic problems within the justice system that impede the prosecution of these crimes.

An overburdened legal system and a lack of resources dedicated to prosecuting gun offenses contribute to a situation in which dangerous individuals may escape the consequences of their actions.

However, there is an approach that works, one New Hampshire has taken for nearly a decade. Instead of relying on red flag laws, my state has enhanced public safety through the strong enforcement of the existing gun laws already on the books. Focusing on stricter implementation and comprehensive enforcement mechanisms for these laws is a more effective approach to preventing gun violence than leaving citizens defenseless. By ensuring that individuals who are prohibited from owning firearms are unable to acquire them, we can mitigate potential threats and allow for self-defense in necessary circumstances.

The reality is that to address and reduce gun violence, our nation needs to focus on expanding mental health services and ensuring current gun laws are appropriately and consistently enforced. Addressing the root causes of gun violence, such as untreated mental health issues, is a more productive and compassionate way to promote public safety. Providing mental health resources and support can help individuals in crisis receive the help they need, ultimately preventing violence and tragedy.

Our state has a responsibility to invest in the mental well-being of its citizens, as it is directly linked to public safety. By addressing the mental health crisis at its core, we can reduce the likelihood of individuals reaching a point where they pose a threat to themselves or others better than any law could ever assure.