Today's Paper Search Latest New app In the news Traffic #Gazette200 Listen Digital replica FAQ Weather Newsletters Obits Puzzles + Games Archive

From time to time, Gov. Asa Hutchinson invites reporters into his home or office for a “pen and pad” session that is different from a full-fledged news conference only in the lesser formality.

I’ve attended two of these events because of their timeliness in regard to major news.

The first was when the governor prepared to set a world land-speed record for lethal injections, scheduling eight executions in 11 days because the state’s poison supply was about to hit its expiration date. Only four executions got carried out, owing to the courts.

The second was last week when the governor’s office said the topic would be a one-month report on the new reorganization of state government.

But everyone knew that would be the least of what would be discussed.

The real topic once we piled into the governor’s office—and as soon as the governor quit droning about such scintillating efficiencies as the State Police’s auto shop now servicing all Public Safety Department vehicles—would be issues newly raging from mass shootings.

This was the first question: What about a “red flag law” in Arkansas by which parties could petition a court to order temporary seizure of a person’s gun or guns on the basis of a threat that person posed to himself or others?

As we spoke, even U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham was signing on to a bipartisan bill to set up a system of federal grants to states to help with such laws.

Hyper-conservatives such as Tom Cotton were indicating a receptiveness to such laws.

That was primarily because conservatives preferred a lesser fallback position to real control of gun sales or gun manufacture. The NRA isn’t as vehemently opposed—just everyday resistant—to red-flag laws. There’s an NRA wink in play on red-flag laws, it appears.

Hutchinson has moderate days. He had just come from one when he embraced a hate-crime law.

But he was not having one of those days on a red-flag law.

It’s not that Asa’s logical, linear reasoning on the red-flag issue wasn’t sound. The problem, he said, is due process. It’s the standard of proof. It’s potential abuse.

I get that.

Under state Sen. Greg Leding’s red-flag bill last session, Asa believed that a conniving spouse or relative could tell two police officers that their family member posed a threat to himself or them or others, and that most any policeman would be sensitive to that and sign an affidavit for a judge, who also would be sensitive to it.

The governor said there may be a need for such a law. He said there may be a way to write one that is fair and workable. But he said he hadn’t yet seen it.

The good thing, he said, is that such laws are now being contemplated in many of the 33 states without them, and that we can monitor developments nationwide in search of an Arkansas application.

Fine. I was with him, even to the extent of siding more with his concern for details than with Moms Demand Action, which thought he was being obstructive in the last session and that Leding’s bill was fine.

To me it’s more legally sound to ban certain types of assault weaponry than to try to pick out people who can’t have any weaponry at all.

But then, it’s hard to argue that there shouldn’t exist a clear legal method to remove weapons from persons with dementia, mental disorder or recent episodes of demonstrably threatening behavior.

Hutchinson said, yes, certainly, it is desirable to be able to disarm someone who has been caught making criminal threats online.

Red-flag laws, so far, seem to have reduced suicides more than anything else. And that’s surely worthwhile in itself.

So, here’s the problem: I told the governor he sounded passive on the issue. I wondered if he might instead become more active and make a red-flag law a legislative priority of his administration, thus deploying the power, prestige and expertise of his office to write a bill he’d find acceptable.

He practically recoiled.

Oh, no, he said. It’s certainly not something he’s going to take the lead on, he emphasized, as if there would be something wrong with the governor seeing a need and meeting it, and seeing a complication and tackling it.

The old maxim is that “the governor proposes and the Legislature disposes.” But that’s not so if the governor seems politically afraid of this headline: “Hutchinson says ‘red-flag’ law a priority for next session.”

He took the lead regarding a hate-crime bill, and good for him. That a few more state cars are getting their oil changed by the State Police mechanic—he’ll claim that for sure.

But here he seems to leave the matter to Leding, the Democrat. The Republican Legislature will have license to balk.

Asa’s moderate days and conservative days—alas, they vary.

—––––– ❖ –––––—

JohnBrummett,whosecolumnappearsregularly in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, is a memberoftheArkansasWriters’HallofFame. Read his @johnbrummett Twitter feed.


Sponsor Content

You must be signed in to post comments


  • Jfish
    August 11, 2019 at 6:45 a.m.

    A red-flag law makes much more sense that a hate-crime law.

  • GeneralMac
    August 11, 2019 at 7:35 a.m.

    "caught making threats online"

    THERE you would have EVIDENCE.

    A wife trying to punish a husband by "using " the system has happebed often in the past.

    A mere ACCUSATION of sexual abuse of children will result in the husband/ex-husband losing visitation rights until it is investigated.

    If the report is found to not be credible, the father has lost time with his children and the wife faces NO consequences.

    A "win/win " for a vindictive wife.

    Look for the same abuse with RED FLAG laws.
    A vindictive wife "USING" the system strictly to punish a husband/exhusband.

  • Nodmcm
    August 11, 2019 at 8:03 a.m.

    The problem is that we have given the 'right' to people to hide their hate, buy their rifles and 100-round drum magazines, and shoot up any place they like, only punishing them afterwards. Only if they show their hate can we 'red flag' them and take their weapons. A lot of these shooters only post their hate twenty minutes before they walk into the Wal-Mart with hulls flying. We, as a society, will do NOTHING to stop those men from opening fire. Those men will be good guys with guns, lawfully exercising their Second Amendment rights, right up until the first shot is fired in the Wal-Mart parking lot, at which point they will become future life-sentenced felons, but only after they are shot or disarmed. Until then, they have freedom to continue firing inside the Wal-Mart, because our society says they have that right, until some brave police officers can 'pry that assault rifle from their cold, dead hands.' Are we really going to give men that right? Are we going to keep selling those rifles and drum mags?

  • mozarky2
    August 11, 2019 at 8:05 a.m.

    Or some sick, twisted creep like armnar and RBear stalking or doxxing you...

    August 11, 2019 at 8:36 a.m.

    The creepy thing is living inside moz’s addled brain 24/7.

    It’s very dark and smelly in there.

  • GLP1
    August 11, 2019 at 9:06 a.m.

    Have an amendment to any proposed legislation. "Anyone who knowingly makes a false accusation that leads to an innocent persons possessions being seized under this law shall receive a mandatory one year sentence in prison and a fine of five thousand dollars." If the state is going to ignore due process there should be significant penalty for a false accusation.

  • mozarky2
    August 11, 2019 at 9:18 a.m.

    Big difference, armnar-I'm not a craven, cowardly doxxer like you. I would never stoop so low.

  • limb
    August 11, 2019 at 9:30 a.m.

    Everyone including the public and car makers got auto fatalities reduced by enacting stricter laws, licensing requirements and safety devices. To me, this is our Governor turning away from the problem of kids dying in hot cars or on the playground this year by a mass shooter. Innovate? Nah.

    Red flag laws help but qualified counselors can’t turn someone in for “thoughts.” Stricter background checks all around are a beginning, but like I said not to this governor who finds the deaths tolerable.

  • limb
    August 11, 2019 at 10:09 a.m.

    Guns are marital household property and can be confiscated by police in any disturbance call if the victim wishes. This is not true now of partner status, threatening boyfriend/girlfriend.

  • GeneralMac
    August 11, 2019 at 1:35 p.m.

    ARMNAR......."CREEPY" is the person who would post someone's home telephone number in hopes of 24/7 harrassment.

    That "CREEPY" was/is YOU.

    But, if it made Brenda Looper smile, that's all YOU care about !