Bipartisan 'red flag' gun laws plan has support in Congress

Associated Press

A woman leans over to write a message on a cross at a makeshift memorial at the scene of a mass shooting at a shopping complex Tuesday in El Paso, Texas.

As discussions about “red flag” laws are renewed in light of two recent mass shootings, local state lawmakers say they aren’t sure they would support the measure in Pennsylvania.

Reps. Matthew Dowling, Ryan Warner, Justin Walsh and Bud Cook, all area Republicans, voiced concerns that allowing authorities to seize firearms of those who are deemed a danger to themselves or others under an Extreme-Risk Protection Order (EPO) raises constitutional concerns. The men said they believe that lawmakers need to focus more on mental health.

“While I share the desire to help stop these horrific incidents—and support additional funding for and focus upon mental health services to identify and help those individuals who would even think of perpetrating such acts—EPOs can be the first step on a slippery slope whereby government begins to intrude on the constitutional rights of our citizens and that is something we must always guard against,” said Dowling, of Uniontown.

“Red flag” laws are supposed to work with courts issuing temporary orders barring someone from possessing guns based on some showing of imminent danger or a risk of misuse.

Most of the laws in already in effect in other states stipulate that only specific people—usually family or household members—may petition a court for an EPO. In some cases, a preliminary order may be granted without prior notice to the person who is the subject of the order.

A typical order can range from a few days to a few weeks with an opportunity for the subject of the EPO to respond; sometimes a more permanent order may be granted for up to a year.

A bipartisan proposal by Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., has gained momentum following weekend mass shootings in Texas and Ohio that left 31 people dead. The emerging plan would create a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt the “red flag” laws.

“We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do those firearms can be taken through rapid due process,” President Donald Trump said in a White House speech on Monday.

Warner, of Perryopolis, said more work needs to be done to ensure that unstable people don’t have access to firearms, but questioned whether an EPO was the right way to do it.

“(T)he challenge becomes how to do it without infringing upon the rights of law-abiding citizens,” Warner said.

In the cases of some mass shootings, he said, there are laws that should’ve prevented the shooters from having a firearm.

“So we must also look at why those laws are failing or not being properly enforced,” he said.

Like his counterparts, Walsh said he recognizes the need to do something to stop gun violence.

“With that being said, any proposal needs to be fully vetted because once the government starts eroding away at the rights of its people, it will be difficult to stop,” he said.

Cook, meanwhile, said it’s important to look for a long-term solution – and for all lawmakers to act logically, not emotionally.

“We’re a politically polarized society right now,” Cook said. “You can’t have an emotional discussion when people are pointing fingers at each other.”

With the stabbings in California this week that claimed the life of four people, Cook said the mental-health side of the issue must be addressed as one of many contributing factors.

“You have to take all factors into account,” Cook said, adding constitutional concerns exist. “It’s not just the guns.”

(2) comments


Same old lame excuse by the local gop, i am a gun owner and respect your right to own a gun or guns just not these types, can you remember the mass murder that took place here in fayette county 5 people killed and not one.. not 1 comment from our local representatives, now when this happens in some other neighborhood these spineless enablers want to weigh in on this horrendous blight that is all to often taking place in this country. President Donald Trump responded to the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings by insisting Monday that “mental illness pulls the trigger not the gun,” but shortly after taking office he quietly rolled back an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for people with mental illness to buy guns. Trump did so without any fanfare. In fact, the news that Trump had signed the bill was at the bottom of a White House email that alerted the media to other legislation signed by the president. And it came after the House and Senate, both of which were Republican-controlled at the time, passed a bill, H.J. Res 40, which revoked the Obama-era regulation. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson, a Texas Republican who retired at the end of 2018. The latest mass shootings left at least 30 dead and horrified the nation. "It has been the NRA’s long-standing position that those who have been adjudicated as a danger to themselves or others should not have access to firearms and should be admitted for treatment," it said. But two years ago, the NRA insisted the Obama rule infringed on Second Amendment rights to buy guns, even though the regulation specifically targeted people who were diagnosed with mental illness. The NRA “applauded” Trump’s action at the time and then-executive director Chris Cox said the move “marks a new era for law-abiding gun owners, as we now have a president who respects and supports our arms.”The Obama rule that Trump nullified had added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their financial affairs to the national background check database. Had that rule taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added 75,000 names to the national background check database. Obama had recommended the regulation after the 2012 mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School that left 20 first-graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., a leading gun control advocate in Congress, denounced Trump in 2017 for getting rid of the Obama restrictions and blasted the GOP. "Republicans always say we don’t need new gun laws, we just need to enforce the laws already on the books,” he said in a statement. “But the bill signed into law today undermines enforcement of existing laws that Congress passed to make sure the background check system had complete information.” Groups like the National Alliance of Mental Illness have accused the Trump Administration of rolling back other Obama-era policies designed to help the mentally ill. "In the U.S., it is easier to get a gun than it is to get mental health," said Angela Kimball, NAMI's acting CEO. "We need to flip the script. It should be easy — not hard — for people to get the mental health care they need." Meanwhile, mental health experts accused Trump of focusing on mental illness to avoid taking politically risky steps like banning high-powered weapons like the ones that were used in the El Paso and Dayton massacres. “These events are tragic, but are not predictable because many people have the propensity to perpetrate mayhem,” said Linda Teplin, a professor of psychiatry at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “They must have the weapons, not only the inclination. We are complicit because we make rifles with high capacity magazines available to all.” The Newtown Action Alliance said the president's comments are an attempt to deflect from real change. "If the president truly believed that those with mental illness should not have access to weapons of war, he would not have reversed Obama's executive order to remove social security recipients with mental illness from the NICS background system," Po Murray, Chairwoman, Newtown Action Alliance said in a statement. "But the fact is that only 4 percent of violent crimes are committed by those with mental illness. Donald Trump continues to push the NRA rhetoric that scapegoats mental illness in an effort to deflect from the real issue ... the dire lack of common-sense legislation that could end the epidemic of gun violence in our country."


Why is the 2nd amendment the only amendment that has so may law restricting it?

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