Seattle authorities used "Red Flag" gun laws to disarm a Neo-Nazi

Kaleb J. Cole (aka "Khimaere") is the 24-year-old leader of the Washington State cell of the Atomwaffen Division, an international network of violent Neo-Nazis. Aside from generally spewing hateful rhetoric, Cole had also been seen participating in Atomwaffen's "Hate Camps," sharpening his rifle skills for more extremist violence.

Fortunately, he no longer has access to any guns. From The Daily Beast:

[Cole] had his guns seized on Oct. 1st, according to King County Court records. The move came after the Seattle Police Department filed a 62-page "Extreme Risk Protection Order" petition against Cole on Sept. 26, according to electronic court records. Among the weapons that had been in Cole's possession were a pistol and an AK-47 variant with a high-capacity drum magazine.

To be clear, Cole has not been charged on any specific crimes. As far as anyone's aware, he hasn't killed anyone—at least not yet, although there is arguably reason to believe that he plans to. In addition to the target-practice videos where he can be seen chanting "Race war now" with the rest of his buddies, Cole has openly admitted to his fascist beliefs, and support for armed insurrection.

Again: not technically crimes. But valids cause for concern. That's where the "Red Flag" or "Extreme Risk" laws come in. They're basically restraining orders, but for guns.

One of the biggest struggles with reducing gun violence in America is that a lot of the proposed legislation also infringes on civil liberties. For example: the various "No-Fly Lists" that the government maintains have no clear criteria or due process, which ends up punishing people innocent Muslims, government employees, and literal fucking babies. Similar surveillance programs have been used to target people of color and labor organizers—people who are actually under threat of violence, and thus, might have a more legitimate claim to a need for armed self-defense than Every White Suburban Dad With A Boner For The Military Industrial Complex.

Even vague restrictions on "mental health" tend to do more harm than good, as people with mental illnesses are statistically less likely to commit acts of violence, and more likely to be the victims of it. They can also add in weirdly arbitrary bureaucrat barricades to lots of other things that prevent people with disabilities from living their full lives.

The only reliable indicator we've actually found of a person's penchant for violence is a pre-established history of aggressive behavior. While felony domestic violence should technically restrict someone's access to guns, there are lots of ways for someone to get around that (and that's before you even factor in the domestic violence that doesn't get reported at all).

The idea behind the Red Flag laws in states like Rhode IslandCaliforniaWashington, and New York is that someone can put a case together and present it to a local court requesting a temporary firearm restriction for someone, even if they haven't actually been convicted of a disqualifying crime yet. Authorities in Mr. Cole's case presented a 62-page document detailing why there's a valid reason to suspect he might commit an act of armed violence. These laws still need to be carefully written and handled in order to prevent abuse, of course. But as long as there's transparency, clear standards, and an accessible appeal process, they have the potential to do a lot of good. (As it stands, only about 10 percent of NICS background checks involve further investigation anyway, so this is already to affect a very slim number of people.)

So right now, I'd chalk this up to a good example of a gun violence solution actually working as it should (for now).

Image: StickerGiant/Flickr