Op-Ed: Red-flag law shreds fundamental rights

When the federal government wanted to subdue an Indian tribe, the first thing it did was confiscate all their guns. Now, New Mexico Democrats want to do the same thing to law-abiding citizens with the most radical so-called red-flag law passed by any state in the nation to date (“Gov. signs ‘red-flag’ legislation into law,” Feb. 26).

Unlike the tribal members of the Old West who weren’t made citizens until 1924, modern-day American citizens, including Indians, are constitutionally guaranteed an individual right to “keep and bear arms.”

One of the bill’s sponsors, Democratic Rep. Daymon Ely, frankly admits, “This bill will infringe on New Mexicans’ constitutional rights.” Indeed, the new firearm seizure law turns them into a block of Swiss cheese, leaving legal due process (Fifth Amendment), the right to confront an accuser (Sixth Amendment), and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures (Fourth Amendment) in shreds.

One element that makes Senate Bill 5 the most radical in the nation is the provision trial lawyers inserted to enrich themselves, making sheriffs personally liable if they refuse to enforce it, which strips public officials of sovereign action immunity in the performance of their duties. This action creates a crisis of conscience for sheriffs who take their oaths seriously. The precedence of their personal liability is unconstitutional on its face because its intention is to threaten our sheriffs into submission.

Thankfully, there are some bright spots for gun owners in our state. Surprisingly, Doña Ana County’s liberal board of commissioners voted to oppose SB 5. I pointed out to the commissioners that legislators won’t be on the hook when unconstitutional “red-flag” orders are issued to confiscate lawfully held firearms. Legislators won’t have to defend lawsuits alleging civil rights violations. It won’t be legislators who are ordered to knock down doors in the dead of night at the behest of a vindictive ex or a nasty neighbor because someone is “dangerous” and might commit a “future crime.” Instead, enforcement will hit taxpayers in each county, 25 of which have passed Second Amendment Sanctuary resolutions.

Channeling my former Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz, I also delivered a natural law refresher to the commissioners, reminding them that fundamental rights matter and that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” as Martin Luther King Jr. put it.

What’s important to note about the Second Amendment, and indeed the whole Bill of Rights, is that it doesn’t actually grant anybody any rights but rather bars the federal government from infringing on fundamental rights that are natural and God-given, pre-existing government itself. In fact, the very reason a government exists is to protect the inalienable rights of citizens to “life, liberty, and property.” Self-defense is vital to all three. “To secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

What part of “shall not be infringed” did Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham not understand?

Gavin Clarkson served in the Trump administration as the deputy assistant secretary for policy and economic development and is a former associate professor in the College of Business at New Mexico State University. A cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School where he was president of the Native American Law Students Association, Clarkson was the first tribal member to earn a doctorate from the Harvard Business School.