Twenty-one innocent people, 19 of them children, are dead. A young man felt that the best option in life was to kill his grandmother and other innocent strangers. He was able to gain access to an unsecured school where he knew no one could defend themselves, and there was no one there with the tools to stop him. When police arrived, after detaining, pepper spraying, and tasing concerned parents, they waited 78 minutes to try and stop the slaughter. These are all problems. Yet, the tens of millions of law-abiding American gun owners and the hundreds of thousands of them who use their guns to defend themselves every year are not. Freedom is not.

People seeking to elevate themselves are screaming about universal background checks, “assault weapon” bans, magazine limits, red flag laws, and outlawing anything that can scare the uneducated. They seek to exploit the death of children for their own personal and political gain.  

The unfortunate truth is this: none of that would have saved the kids in Uvalde, the kids in Parkland, or the people in Buffalo. In fact, the Buffalo supermarket became a target because the shooter knew no one would be able to fight back, the same reason schools and other gun-free zones are targeted. He did what criminals do: he broke the law to circumvent feel-good-but-do-nothing gun control and exploited that law-abiding citizens were left defenseless because of those laws. The Parkland, Uvalde, and Buffalo shooters passed background checks. Most mass shooters do. They were still able to carry out these attacks because of one simple fact: no one fought back. Whether like those in Buffalo, they couldn’t, or like the Police in Uvalde and Parkland, they cowered in fear. Innocent people were unable to defend themselves because of gun control.

Conservatives now are pondering where they should fall on the gun control debate. Red Flag laws are not where anyone should fall. Red Flag laws are the same as most gun control measures. They have a disproportionately negative effect on the law-abiding. However, Red Flag laws are unique because they only target the law-abiding. Statutorily specified individuals such as law enforcement, family, ex-spouses, roommates, teachers, and colleagues can petition a judge for an order to have someone disarmed without any deterrent to prevent malicious false reports. Red Flag laws are designed to take guns away from people who may have never even broken the law, and certainly haven’t been afforded due process or a chance to defend themselves before being deprived of their rights and property. They are like putting at-risk teenagers in prison before they can rob a convenience store. They are the manifestation of Orwell’s fictional version of “pre-crime.”

Red Flag laws achieve one goal that some may be interested in right now. They would allow big government to disarm anyone at any time, with extremely low burdens of proof. There is ZERO evidence that these laws prevent violent crime or mass shootings. The idea that these laws, somehow uniquely from nearly every other law that has given the government more power, will not be abused is simply naive.

History teaches us that using public approval as justification for enacting poorly understood policy that merely sounds good in a polling question is not sound government. This often leads to hard-to-reverse reactionary decisions while the citizenry suffers. Just look at the Patriot Act, the Iraq War, and Prohibition. Let’s not go looking for WMDs with our constitutional rights just because it is politically expedient.

The question we should be answering is why law-abiding people are left disarmed and defenseless when they cross arbitrary lines, while the people intent on doing harm can simply walk right in armed to the teeth? That is the change Republicans should get behind.

Should law-abiding citizens be turned into felons with the stroke of a pen? Should we abandon the long-standing principles of due process and deprive people of their rights with middle-of-the-night no-knock raids because of bad information from an ex-spouse? After 231 years, is it finally time to shred the Second Amendment and admit that Thomas Jefferson was mistaken in his preference of dangerous liberty to peaceful slavery? Should we purchase a little temporary security at the price of liberty? No. Not now. Not ever. Republicans, conservatives, libertarians, and free men and women everywhere should remain more steadfast now than ever in defense of liberty in the face of this tragedy and the next. Now is not the time to waver and pass bad laws in knee-jerk reactions. 

John Ferebee is a research intern at the John Locke Foundation and is planning to attend law school in the fall of 2022.