Senators from Connecticut and South Carolina are crossing the aisle to develop a federal grant program to encourage states to adopt red flag laws, which enable authorities to seize guns from individuals deemed a danger to themselves or others.
After mass shootings in Ohio and Texas last weekend, Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC) have announced that they are working together on this bipartisan legislation.
“These grants will be given to law enforcement so they can hire and consult with mental health professionals to better determine which cases need to be acted upon,” Graham said in a press release. “This grant program also requires robust due process and judicial review. It does allow for quick action.”
Fifteen states currently have red flag laws also known as extreme risk protection orders. ERPOs may be instigated by close friends and family and generally require a court hearing to enable gun seizures. States with red flag laws include:
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
Ohio and Texas legislators have already called for similar laws in their states. Connecticut has the oldest red flag law, enacted in 1999. With the heightened awareness of these laws, Connecticut has seen a significant uptick in cases, according to the Associated Press, with 268 warrants issued for gun seizures in 2018.
The National Rifle Association is opposed to the red flag laws already enacted by those fifteen states. They are not, however, opposed to red flag laws generally. Earlier this year, Dan Reid, western director of the NRA, spoke to the Las Vegas Review-Journal about the problems with red flag laws.
“The biggest issue with all these bills is due process,” Reid said. “A person is going to lose their rights based on a third-party allegation. They’ve never been convicted of a crime. They’ve never been adjudicated mentally ill. That’s not how our system of justice should work.”
Back in January, the NRA drafted a list of requirements a red flag law should include to ensure it doesn’t trample one’s constitutional rights:
- The process should include criminal penalties for those who bring false or frivolous charges.
- An order should only be granted when a judge makes the determination, by clear and convincing evidence, that the person poses a significant risk of danger to themselves or others.
- The process should require the judge to make a determination of whether the person meets the state standard for involuntary commitment. Where the standard for involuntary commitment is met, this should be the course of action taken.
- If an ERPO is granted, the person should receive community-based mental health treatment as a condition of the ERPO.
- Any ex parte proceeding should include admitting the individual for treatment.
- A person’s Second Amendment rights should only be temporarily deprived after a hearing before a judge, in which the person has notice of the hearing and is given an opportunity to offer evidence on his or her behalf.
- There should be a mechanism in place for the return of firearms upon termination of an ERPO, when a person is ordered to relinquish their firearms as a condition of the order.
- The ERPO process should allow an individual to challenge or terminate the order, with full due process protections in place.
- The process should allow firearms to be retained by law-abiding third parties, local law enforcement, or a federally licensed firearms dealer when an individual is ordered to relinquish such firearms as a condition of the ERPO. The individual must also have the ability to sell his or her firearms in a reasonable time without violating the order.
President Trump held a press conference Monday and called for new legislation, including 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,” the President said, as GunsAmerica previously reported.
“That is why I’ve called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.”
It appears Sens. Graham and Blumenthal wasted no time in heeding Trump’s call to action.
“We will be finalizing details for this bill and reaching out to colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the coming days and weeks,” Blumenthal said. “I look forward to introducing final legislation with Senator Graham in the very near future.”