U.S. Congressional Candidate in the Montana Democratic Primary, Tom Winter, took exception with an article quoting his words on so-called “Red Flag Laws” gun-grabbing efforts and weighed in on the Gazette Facebook page to dispel concerns that he only wants “common-sense” gun laws. The late-night social media melt-down probably did not help his case with Montana voters.
Chiming in at nearly 10 PM in an online conversation that would go several hours, Winter wrote, “If law enforcement has enough evidence to convince a judge that someone is a threat to themselves or others, they should have their firearms temporarily removed until they are ready to be a responsible gun owner.”
The candidate continued, “The people affected by these laws can be those afflicted with mental illness, those that beat their wives or domestic partner, and those that engage in terrorism. The threshold for a judge to enact this temporary removal – that is requested by law enforcement – is very high. Much similar to what it takes to commit someone to a mental health facility against their will. They must exhibit strong evidence that they are a threat to themselves or someone else.”
However, when fact-checked against reality, Winter’s claims don’t seem to hold muster. Current state and local laws around the country already allow a mentally-unstable, self-threatening, or abusive person to have their firearms confiscated through the court system after a court trial with due process. Additionally, “those who engage in terrorism” are committing a crime already, and clearly will have their firearms taken under status quo law.
Red Flag Laws, on the other hand, allow firearms to be confiscated without a trial based upon accusations from almost anyone, whether law enforcement, a spouse, an enemy, or an anonymous complaint. Under Red Flag Laws, guns are confiscated without due process in which a trial allows the accused allowing to see the evidence presented against them and defend themselves.
Winter’s position, as articulated in social media last evening, is that “strong evidence” must be presented under Red Flag Laws in order for gun confiscation to occur. The reality is that evidence is not vetted through Constitutional protections afforded to citizens in the criminal justice system under Red Flag Laws passed by multiple states and municipalities.
When pressed on the constitutionality of taking guns first and allowing due process second, Winter cited President Trump, who Winter says should have been removed from office by the Senate on his campaign website. An odd bed-fellow to cite for a House Democrat candidate, Winter wrote, “Take the guns first, go through due process second – President Donald J. Trump.”
Winter was referring to a statement made by President Trump in February of 2018. Trump immediately backed away from the suggestion and has since backpedaled from the stance thanks to Colorado House Minority Leader Patrick Neville, who explained to him the legal problems, along with other gun rights activists.
Winter was then asked in the Facebook thread, “Donald Trump isn’t running for the U.S. House in the State of Montana. He’s from New York. What’s your excuse?”
Things got heated when Winter responded with a Bible verse, “Mark 12:31,” which is a citation of Jesus’ words regarding the importance of loving your neighbor.
He received the retort, regarding Winter’s pro-abortion stance, “Here’s a verse, ‘If you hurt one of these infants, it’s better you tie a millstone around your neck and jump into the sea (Matthew 18:6).’
Winter didn’t back down, and in fact, dug in, on his assertion that Red Flag Laws don’t take firearms without due process. The candidate responded, “Law enforcement is alerted to someone being a threat to themselves or others. They investigate. Gather evidence. And if necessary, present the evidence to a judge suggesting temporary removal of all firearms.”
Winter neglected to mention that the evidence – which is not necessarily given through law enforcement but can come from a private citizen or spurned lover – is used to determine one’s right to own a firearm without the accused being present to provide a legal defense. This suspends the presumption of innocence enshrined in the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, declaring the right to a trial.
Glendive resident and Montana House member, Alan Doane, added to the thread, “You can’t possibly reconcile your oath to support, protect and defend our Constitution with what you are saying now.”
Winter responded, “Alan Doane are you saying that the President is not fulfilling his oath to the Constitution of the U.S.?”
Another added, “What’s more controversial, Alan Doane disagreeing with POTUS’ back-peddled remarks or a Democratic U.S. House candidate defending his position by appealing to the wisdom of Donald Trump?”
Ironically as Winter defended his position by appealing to Trump, Trump endorsed his Republican opponent, Matt Rosendale in the House race.
For more information on how Red Flag Laws work, search the resources made available by the Montana Shooting Sports Association.