May 27, 2023
HB1018, the "red flag" bill which was approved by the House of Representatives this past week, is an unconstitutional violation of individual rights in our Commonwealth. Let me explain why by using the actual text of the PA Constitution.
For those unfamiliar with the PA Constitution, it's broken down into eleven separate articles. Article I spells out the fundamental individual rights PA government is charged to protect.
The other ten articles provide the framework of government instituted to create, execute, and adjudicate statutory laws for the operation of the Commonwealth, all of which must stand clear of the rights enumerated in Article I.
Article I begins with a preamble: "That the general, great and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and unalterably established, WE DECLARE THAT—"
The purpose of Article I is to establish the principles of liberty and free government. The rights included in the 29 sections that follow are DECLARED, not requested.
I did not capitalize the word "declare" – the founders did. Those declared rights include the right to free speech, the right to worship as you see fit, the right to peacefully assemble, and your right to bear arms, among many others.
Your Right to Bear Arms
Section 21 is specific to gun rights: "§ 21. Right to bear arms. The right of the citizens to bear arms in defense of themselves and the State shall not be questioned."
That's as clear and concise as it gets. "Shall not be questioned" is much more succinct than the federal 2nd Amendment. HB1018 – the red flag bill – certainly crosses the line into questioning the rights of Pennsylvanians to bear arms.
The Fence Around Your Rights
Section 25 adds a second layer of protection: "§ 25. Reservation of powers in people. To guard against transgressions of the high powers which we have delegated, we declare that everything in this article is excepted out of the general powers of government and shall forever remain inviolate."
EVERYTHING in Article I is excepted out of the general powers of government. A statute such as HB1018 created by the General Assembly *is* the general powers of government, and cannot violate Article I protected rights. Ever.
Inviolate comes from the Latin word inviolatus, made up of in-, meaning "not" and violare, meaning "violate." So inviolate describes something so sacred or pure that it must not be violated.
Section 25 reserves powers to the people themselves. In other words, if you believe someone is a danger to themselves or others, you - or you and other people - retain the power to intervene regarding their possession of firearms, but government can't.
Protecting You From Government
The constitution does not allow for the suspension of individual rights by government due to your personal concerns, "common sense," or emergencies - perceived or real, even if only temporarily. That was the crux of my stance against Covid lockdowns.
We essentially won that argument when the people ratified constitutional changes to reduce a governor's emergency powers in 2021. PA was the only state to take such action.
Some have argued that because red flag laws are legal in other states, they should be legal in PA. But other states are not obligated to adhere to the PA Constitution. They all have their own constitutions.
I swore an oath to support, obey and defend the PA Constitution, and I take that oath seriously. That's why I was obligated to vote against HB1018, and would be even if I didn't think it was a really bad idea that would eventually be abused for retaliation and revenge.