November was a bad month for gun and privacy rights

Bill of Rights

The month of November was a bad one for gun and privacy rights as Trump, the GOP, and others took two giant steps in the direction of disarming the populous and seizing control of our children.

The first step was taken when under the mistaken belief “that the first duty of government is to protect the safety of our citizens,” Attorney General Bill Barr announced the launch of a new federal gun control program called Project Guardian, and he promised to enforce the new gun control measures included in the program “with a vengeance.”

Under Project Guardian, Barr is encouraging U.S. attorneys to adopt programs to “disrupt” potential threats and to begin pushing “court-ordered” mental health treatment for those deemed mentally ill. As you may recall, government-mandated involuntary confinement of “mentally ill” suspects who have committed no crime was a part of Trump’s gun control plan following the mass shootings in El Paso, TX and Dayton, OH this past summer. His plan also included using mental illness as leverage in his push for expanding red flag laws.

While there are obviously those who need medical help when it comes to finding ways to deal with their emotional and mental challenges, the connection between mental illness and gun violence is quickly becoming the default position of big-government politicians eager to find new ways to deny us our gun rights.

As troubling as that is, it’s worse when we realize that Republicans and Democrats have been busy working on ways to grant themselves the power to determine the mental fitness of an individual to own a gun in order and then use that information to deny them their Second Amendment rights. Evidence of their intentions are found in the Project Guardian program, but also in the push for red flag laws and the Threat Assessment, Prevention and Safety (TAPS) Act — a bill I call red flag laws on steroids.

The TAPS Act has been called “a proactive solution” that will “prevent future tragedies.” In Marco Rubio’s Senate version of the bill, EVERYONE (including children) would be given a personal treat assessment to single out those deemed a future threat thus allowing government to “stop dangerous individuals before they can commit an act of violence.”

Rubio’s proposal would establish a “Joint Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management Task Force” that would be tasked with developing a national strategy for preventing targeted violence using the required assessments. The JBTAMTF would use “evidence-based processes” and the assessments to identify individuals exhibiting patterns of dangerous behavior that may precede an act of targeted violence.

The TAPS Act requires the Task Force’s recommendations for the development of the National Strategy to:

  • Ensure consideration of the different needs and resources of communities across the country, and will not be construed as a national standard.
  • Include recommendations for the most effective leveraging of existing Federal, State, local, and Tribal infrastructure, workforce, and experience.
  • Include recommendations to increase collaboration between government agencies and private entities that focus on public safety responsibilities.
  • Include recommendations on training programs to disseminate to State and Local entities.
  • Include recommendations for a Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management School Violence Prevention Program to train and support a multi-disciplinary and multijurisdictional behavioral threat assessment and management process for educational entities. (emphasis mine)

Why did I highlight that last point? Because that leads us to the second big step . . . Protecting America’s Schools: A U.S. Secret Service Analysis of Targeted School Violence.

It turns out the Secret Service has already fulfilled the highlighted requirement of the TAPS Act with this 20-years-in-the-making report designed, according to Director James M. Murray, to provide an “unprecedented base of facts about school violence, as well as an updated methodology and practical guidelines for prevention.”

Hey, I just realized that shorthand for the U.S. Secret Service and Hitler’s Schutzstaffel is SS. Weird, huh?

The 59-page analysis of targeted school violence takes the same “pre-crime” approach to gun violence we see in red flag laws and the TAPS Act. Using the mental health connection to gun violence as a basis, it’s filled with liberty-destroying recommendations that allow government at every level to violate the privacy rights of children not only at school, but at home as well.

According to the report, shootings like the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL last year “could have been prevented” because “Threat Assessment is the best practice for preventing targeted violence.”

“The goal of a threat assessment is to identify students of concern, assess their risk for engaging in violence or other harmful activities, and deliver intervention strategies to manage that risk. Schools should implement a threat assessment process in conjunction with the most appropriate physical security measures as determined by the school and its community.”

While our overlords in Washington keep assuring us that they will protect our rights with these proposals, the Secret Service assessment flat-out admits that rights will be secondary to the interests of the state. In fact, government will “lower the bar” as much as necessary to do as it pleases.

“Threat assessment procedures should recognize that concerning student behaviors occur along a continuum, from a constellation of lower-level concerning behaviors (e.g., depressed mood and behavior changes) to behaviors that are objectively concerning or prohibited (e.g., threats of harm and physical assaults). Many of these behaviors that elicit concern may not involve physical violence or criminal acts, but still require an assessment and appropriate intervention. The threshold for intervention should be low, so that schools can identify students in distress before their behavior escalates to the level of eliciting concerns about safety.”

In the end, the TAPS Act may become little more than a federal rubberstamp of threat assessment laws already spreading the country.

In 2013, Virginia became the first state to legislatively mandate the use of threat assessment teams in K-12 schools under state law. In more recent years, other states have passed similar laws that require threat assessment teams at the school or district level.

Like I said, November was a bad month for gun and privacy rights . . . and it happened with the watchful eyes of Trump and the GOP.


David Leach is the owner of The Strident Conservative.

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