After a Weekend of Deadly Shootings, Republicans Offer Renewed Support for Red Flag Laws

Seventeen states and Washington, D.C., already have such legislation, also known as extreme risk protection order laws, in place.
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President Donald Trump, followed by Vice President Mike Pence, approaches the podium in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on August 5th, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.

President Donald Trump, followed by Vice President Mike Pence, approaches the podium in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House on August 5th, 2019, in Washington, D.C. Trump delivered remarks on the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.

In the wake of two deadly mass shootings that took place last weekend, Republican leaders have expressed renewed support for restricting gun access through extreme risk protection order laws, otherwise known as "red flag" laws.

Such laws allow law enforcement and, in some states, family members and mental-health professionals to petition to have an individual's firearms temporarily removed if the person is believed to pose a danger to themself or others. Currently, 17 states and Washington, D.C., have red flag laws in place, according to the Giffords Law Center.

President Donald Trump offered support for red flag laws in a televised address Monday morning, though it's not yet clear whether he was making any kind of formal proposition, CNN reported.

"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," Trump said.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine unveiled several proposals Tuesday morning to curb gun violence, just two days after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio. His proposals include a red flag law, increased access to mental-health treatment, background checks on all gun sales, and harsher penalties for felons caught with guns and straw purchases. Ohio's Republican-controlled legislature rejected red flag laws put forth by former Governor John Kasich; state lawmakers will look at DeWine's new proposals in mid-September.

While the National Rifle Association opposes many of the state red flag laws that have been enacted, the organization has said it could support red flag laws as long as they protect Second Amendment and due process rights.

At a hearing in March where the Senate Committee on the Judiciary discussed red flag laws, committee chair Senator Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) expressed support for the laws. While Graham said he values Second Amendment freedoms, he believes a red flag law in Florida could have prevented the Parkland shooting, since the perpetrator had a documented history of threatening violence. Florida enacted a red flag law as part of gun control legislation signed into law in March of 2018, the month after the Parkland shooting.

In Francie Diep's coverage of the hearing for Pacific Standard, she noted how strong evidence in favor of the laws also comes from research on the relationship between red flag laws and suicide rates:

One recent study found that Indiana's law cut firearm suicides by 8 percent over 10 years and reduced Indiana's suicide rate overall, while Connecticut's law reduced firearm suicides by 14 percent, once the state began implementing it widely. In Connecticut, however, other types of suicides increased. Suicide is the most common reason for firearm-related deaths in America, followed by homicide.

One witness at the hearing, an attorney who's responsible for advising family members and law enforcement seeking extreme risk protection orders, said that her office once had a woman apply for a protection order against her boyfriend, whom she worried was suicidal. The couple returned for their hearing—where a judge would determine whether there was reason to block the boyfriend from buying a gun—holding hands. "The boyfriend, or respondent, had no objection to the extreme risk protection order," Kimberly Wyatt of King County, Washington, said, "and in fact expressed gratitude that somebody cared enough to make sure that he did not have access to a gun while he was in a crisis."

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