Linda Morford, 43, of Saratoga Springs, Utah, has been charged with one count of terroristic threatening, a second degree felony.
The receptionist said Morford became angry after being told she would need to rearrange her two kids’ appointments.
It’s alleged that she said: ‘Gun people come in and they shoot everybody.
‘I’ll be there next Tuesday at 2, and if we are five minutes late and you guys make us reschedule, then I will come in and KILL EVERYBODY.
‘That’s what I’ll do… Well, I might this afternoon, because I’m super angry, so watch out.’
Police told the site: ‘I advised these threats are extremely substantial and based on the high occupancy of the building during the day, this falls under a Domestic Terrorism level.’
This is a good example of the grey lines that make Red Flag laws so unworkable. There is no doubt that she made a threat. Was it serious? Have any of you ever said to yourself, “I’m going to kill someone if…”? Have you said it out loud? Have you said it in front of someone? In an age of increasing surveillance, have you said something like that in front of a smart speaker? What about something a little less drastic… have you ever quoted a movie line or something like, “say hello to my little friend?” Or “I’m going to make him an offer he can’t refuse?”
Then again, we need to take threats seriously. If this woman had actually gone to the dentist’s office to kill the people, the lack of reaction would have been viewed as inexcusable.
Obviously, there are details of this story that aren’t in the brief news story. Here’s what I think should have happened… the receptionist was right to notify the police. The police should have gone to the woman’s house and questioned her. If she doesn’t have a record of violence and was appropriately apologetic, the police should have sternly warned her against making threats and moved on. If she was belligerent and has a record, then perhaps arrest her for disorderly conduct or something.
Without more than a baseless threat made in anger over the phone, putting someone in jail for a felony seems like an overreaction. But we don’t know all of the facts and there may be more to it that made law enforcement decide that a felony charge was appropriate.
But back to my Red Flag comment… under red flag laws, this would certainly have been enough justification to disarm the woman (assuming she has firearms). Then, whether she was serious about the threat or not, she would be put in the position of proving that she was not intending to actually do anyone harm to anyone. Do you see how a red flag laws shift the burden of proof AND force the accused to prove a negative?
As it is proceeding, the burden is upon law enforcement to prove that she made a serious threat and convict her of a felony, which would deprive her of her 2nd Amendment rights. She will be afforded due process and is presumed innocent. This is as it should be and adheres to the Rule of Law that is the bedrock of a free society.
If a Red Flag law were in place and the government decided to take her firearms because the phone threat is certainly a “red flag,” then her 2nd and 4th Amendment rights would have been violated without any due process or presumption of innocence. In fact, the opposite would have been true. She would have been presumed guilty and put in a position of having to prove her innocence in order to have her rights restored. It front of a judge with an authoritarian streak, such a burden would be insurmountable.
I don’t envy law enforcement in this case. It is a judgment call to decide whether or not her threat rose to the level of a crime or not. Their inclination will be to err on the side of caution and let the court system sort it out. Perhaps that is what is happening here, but it would be an entirely different story if Utah had Red Flag laws in place.