Due to the recent mass shootings, there is a major push for so-called “red flag” gun laws at both the state and federal levels. These laws are the latest tool for gun control advocates to confiscate guns from people based upon only tips and suspicion. No crime has to be committed to trigger an investigation or confiscation.
Red flag laws violate multiple rights protected by our constitution. The Hill has an excellent article on how red flag laws violate more than the 2nd Amendment, including:
Hopefully you’ll never commit a mass shooting, murder, or violent assault. But while you might not have a criminal connection to such individuals, you do share at least one thing in common: you both have unalienable rights. The right to face your accuser. The right to due process. The right to protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. Every one of these rights are explicitly violated under red flag laws. (source)
What could possibly go wrong?
Just ask Brandon Wagshol and his dad, from the anti-gunner haven state, Connecticut.
Brandon’s No Innocent Angel
Before I write anything else, let me be clear. Wagshol is not some squeaky-clean, innocent angel. He wrote some vile racist and transphobic tweets. He also seemed to taunt the FBI in his tweets, which certainly isn’t the smartest thing in the world to do. That being said, holding bigoted views is not the same things as acting on those views. Voicing his bigoted opinions, while disgusting, is not a criminal act. The First Amendment protects his right to voice his hate in the same way that it protects flag burning. No one has to like it, but it’s not a criminal act.
Wagshol may also have been caught in a few lies made on Facebook. According to Norwalk police Lt. Terry Blake:
A Facebook page for the younger Wagshol said he was a former U.S. Marine and worked at the Department of Homeland Security as a janitor. Blake said both of these statements on Facebook are untrue. (source)
Wagshol also admitted to purchasing four 30-round magazines at a Bass Pro Shop in New Hampshire to circumvent Connecticut law limiting magazines to ten rounds. Wagshol is now facing four felony counts for possessing those magazines. Whether or not you support Connecticut’s ban on 30-round magazines, he will be found guilty under current CT law for possessing them.
Finally, Wagshol did admit to ordering a kit to build an AR. A lot of preppers and gun enthusiasts have done the exact same thing. That’s more than understandable with the government chomping at the bit to enact more gun control. Wagshol will likely be in legal trouble in CT for that too.
Be Careful What You Post on Social Media
This is where a “concerned citizen” stepped in. Wagshol shared a meme on Facebook that someone found scary.
According to News12 Connecticut:
FBI investigators say the Norwalk Police Department received a tip about Wagshol’s activity from a concerned citizen. The joint investigation began after the FBI received a tip that Wagshol was trying to buy high capacity magazines from out of state.
Police say all the weapons recovered from the home are legally owned and registered to Wagshol’s father, but that the 22-year-old had access to them. Investigators also recovered body armor with a titanium plate, camouflage shirt, pant and belt, ballistic helmet, tactical gloves, camouflage bag and computers. (source)
That’s right. The confiscated guns belong to his father. The son “had access” to them by living in the same house, but they are his father’s property. His father didn’t do anything wrong, but his property has been seized nonetheless.
This might be a good time to remind your own kids, both young and adult, to watch what they say on social media because it has real-world implications.
Let’s take a look at those other confiscated items, shall we? Camouflage clothing, body armor, gloves, bags, and computers are all legal to own. Listing it all, however, sure makes it sound super-scary. But, seriously, how much danger were people facing from that camouflage bag?
What kind of firearms were confiscated?
I bet you’re expecting to read a long list of firearms. The media spin has been predictable. CNN said “numerous” firearms were confiscated. The Washington Post described the weapons confiscated as a “cache” However, according to the Hartford Courrant:
Inside the condominium, authorities reported seizing a .40-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a rifle scope with laser, firearm optics and flashlights, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. They also found body armor with a titanium plate, and tactical attire, police said.
So, two firearms. That’s what we’re talking about. And, the rifle takes the smallest rounds possible. It’s the kind of round you use plinking or to shoot squirrels or small pests. Who doesn’t have this stuff kicking around?
What Kind of Post Gets Your Guns Seized?
Even though Wagshol has denied having any intent to commit a mass shooting, several news outlets have reported that Wagshol made a Facebook post about wanting to commit a mass shooting, including CNN and The Washington Post.
So, what was this scary Facebook post that led to Wagshol’s arrest?
Good question. There doesn’t seem to be one.
The “concerned citizen” reported a Facebook post regarding buying 30-round magazines. However, no post has surfaced stating Wagshol wanted them for a mass shooting.
The police claim, however, that Wagshol was indeed planning a mass murder. From the Hartford Courrant:
Norwalk police Lt. Terry Blake said Wagshol had posted on Facebook that he “was into planning a mass murder.” (source)
From the CTPost
Police claimed Wagshol made social media posts showing an interest in mass shootings, but did not specify any particular posts. (source)
According to Wagshol’s lawyer, Stamford attorney Darnell Crosland, the police failed to cite any actual Facebook posts in the official report.
Crosland also said the report did not include any of Wagshol’s Facebook posts in question.
“What I understand is that he didn’t make any comments on Facebook, but there might have been other memes, as they call it, that he might have re-posted, but he didn’t make a statement on Facebook as related to any mass shooting.” (source)
Some readers here may also be familiar with the Facebook page, Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children. Their page posted an article from their website with the potential offending meme.
The article goes on to clarify what those terms mean.
“Boogaloo” – a slang term for shit-hits-the-fan, or government gone bad and they’re coming for you, time to fight back. Boogaloo toys refers to guns. The opposite of “bugging out.”
“Alphabet bois” – ATF, FBI, DEA, etc.
“Coat hanger sears” – hand-crafted drop-in auto sears for an AR.
Could this be the offending post? Maybe, maybe not. The article from Uncle Sam’s Misguided Children also says Instagram has blacklisted the term, “boogaloo”. However, I was able to search Instagram and find both the hashtag and multiple users with “boogaloo” as part of their name. So, that doesn’t seem to be entirely accurate.
The CTPost stated the “concerned citizen” reported Wagshol’s posts after talking about getting the 30-round magazines from out of state that are illegal in Connecticut.
Regardless if it was the above-mentioned meme, or a post about magazines which were banned in CT, neither mention mass shootings.
If it is, how many times have we seen similar memes shared by prepper friends or by fellow members in prepper groups on social media or prepper forums?
Rights for Some, Or Rights for All?
Red flag laws are unconstitutional on multiple levels. I know lots of people believe they are necessary. But, we make better decisions when we keep things logical and constitutional, not emotional and reaching.
Here’s what we know:
- Wagshol is a 22-year old man, attending college, living with his 2A-supporting dad.
- This 22-year old holds some hostile and bigoted views.
- He also holds some anti-government views.
- He has lied about prior military status and employment history.
- He decided that his state of residence has imposed unconstitutional laws that violate his second amendment rights and chose to ignore them buy buying 30-round magazines from a Bass Pro shop in NH and ordering an AR kit from CA.
- Someone reported a meme he shared to police under Connecticut’s “red flag law”.
- An investigation took place without his knowledge, and his father’s firearms have been confiscated along with some clothing and gear.
- The official report does not include any specific Facebook posts, never mind Facebook posts discussing mass shootings.
- He has been banned from the college campus he attends until after the investigation.
I know I’m going to catch some flak for this assessment, and that’s ok. I’m fine with holding unpopular opinions. I try to remain consistent in my libertarian views, regardless of what’s popular or not.
But, constitutionally-protected rights apply to everyone, even jerks with bigoted views.
We’ve got an angry, young man who has run his mouth on social media combined with a general atmosphere of fear over mass shootings and firearms in general. Someone got freaked out and reported him under CT’s “red flag” law. Rather than moving to a state where the laws reflect his values, he chose to violate the law and obtain banned magazines and a kit for a banned gun. These were only found during the confiscation, which was the result of a ruling that denied him and his father (who legally owned the guns) due process. The confiscation violated multiple constitutionally-protected rights. Regardless of what is or isn’t constitutional, he’s still in jail. While Wagshol doesn’t sound like someone I would want to spend much time with, he still has civil rights which appear to have been violated.
Many would say that because of his views toward other races or towards transsexuals, that alone is enough to constitute a credible threat of violence. Except, that it isn’t. There is a difference between saying, “I don’t like you” and “I am personally going to harm you.” Red flag laws are pure “Thought Police” and “Pre-Crime Division” stuff. 1984 and The Minority Report were supposed to be warnings, not blueprints.
We either have rights for all, or we have rights for none. If we can overlook someone’s rights because we dislike their beliefs or views, then we should have every expectation that our own rights can and will be overlooked as well. groups we dislike, or we will be torn apart from within by our differences.
I’m hoping it will be the first but preparing for the second.
Cat Ellis is an herbalist, massage therapist, midwifery student, and urban homesteader from New England. She keeps bees, loves gardening and canning, and practice time at the range. She teaches herbal skills on her website, Herbal Prepper. Cat is a member of the American Herbalists Guild, and the author of two books, Prepper’s Natural Medicine and Prepping for a Pandemic.