by Jose Nino
Is more gun control legislation coming to Congress?
The 2018 midterm elections produced a split Congress with Democrats gaining control of the House and Republicans gaining seats in the Senate.
The change in House leadership will signal changes in gun control legislation in the near future. The Guardian has detailed House Democrats’ desire to pass gun control legislation in the upcoming Congress:
“Ted Deutch, a Democratic congressman from Florida who represents Parkland, where a February school shooting left 17 dead, said this week that he expected House Democrats to focus on bills with more bipartisan support. Those measures included bump stock bans and “extreme risk protection orders”, also known as red flag laws, which give law enforcement and family members a way to petition a court to temporarily bar an unstable person from buying or owning guns.”
Red flag laws might just be the “come together” moment establishment politicians have been looking for.
What Are Red Flag Laws?
Red flag laws or Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) are the euphemistic label for new gun-control measures. Under red flag laws, law enforcement has the ability to confiscate an individual’s firearms who is deemed a threat to themselves or others. A simple accusation from a family member, friend, or associate will suffice to seize someone’s firearms.
These laws, mind you, operate in the absence of due process. The accused can have their weapons confiscated without even so much as a hearing a before a judge. It could take months before a gun owner would have to appear in court to win back his gun rights.
Thirteen states currently have red flag laws on the books, with dozens more filing their own versions. What started out as a state-level movement may have some legs at the federal level. Although it’s true that Congressional Democrats are making gun control a major theme of their legislative agenda, it’s naïve to think red flag laws are only relevant because of “gun-grabbing” Democrats have taken power.
As we’ll see below, red flag laws have a history of bipartisan support. And when any piece of legislation has Democrats and Republicans locking arms in agreement, you know trouble lies ahead.
The Gun Control Bipartisan Status Quo
Despite the passionate campaign rhetoric, a significant portion of Republican politicians will change colors on gun rights once in DC. Several GOP members in the upcoming Congress are notable when it comes to their gun control advocacy:
Lindsay Graham: The South Carolina Senator already introduced a red flag bill earlier this year. With the 116th Congress right around the corner, Graham will likely reach across the aisle with Democrat colleagues to move red flag legislation forward. Graham has opined that red flag legislation is the “place where we begin a long-overdue discussion about firearms and mental health. But we must start.”
Marco Rubio: Following the Parkland shootings, Rubio joined the gun control chorus by sponsoring a red flag bill along with Democrat Senators Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, & Jack Reed. Rubio has even flirted with the idea of regulations on magazine clips, raising the minimum age to buy certain firearms like AR-15s, and tweaking the current background check system.
Rick Scott: the Former Governor of Florida (and now a U.S. Senator from Florida), Rick Scott poses an interesting threat to gun rights. Despite his ostensibly pro-gun rhetoric, Scott signed SB 7026 Florida’s most expansive gun control measure in recent history. Scott’s SB 7026 contains red flag provisions, raises the age to buy a firearm to 21, and imposes a three-day waiting period for all firearms purchases.
Trump Administration: Even the Executive branch is joining in on the red-flag craze. The Trump Administration’s Commission on School Safety recently released a report recommending red flag laws as a means to “address school safety and violence.” It’s likely only a matter of time before legislation is introduced in either chamber of Congress now that the Trump administration has endorsed red flag laws.
Larry Hogan, the Republican Governor of Maryland, recently signed a series of gun bills, one which included a red flag law. In October, the first month Maryland’s red flag law went into effect, there were 114 requests to confiscate individuals’ firearms.
Maryland’s red flag law has not been without its fair share of controversy. At 5 a.m on Monday, November 5, two police officers came knocking on 61-year-old Gary Willis’ door to serve him a court order mandating that he turn over his guns. What seemed like a typical court order, quickly turned deadly as one of the cops shot and killed Willis in a struggle that ensued. Quick to defend one of his own, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare defended the cops’ action by callously claiming that they “did the best they could with the situation they had.”
The tragic incident in Maryland is an ominous sign of what may be to come should red flag laws gain more traction.
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