Debate over red flag laws in Congress showing signs of some bipartisan support

WASHINGTON — In the wake of the massacre at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, members of Congress are set to take up a proposal aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Next month, the House is expected to vote on what’s known as a red flag proposal.

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Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) introduced the “Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act” last year which would allow family members and law enforcement to get an extreme risk protection order to temporarily take away guns from people who are deemed a danger to themselves or to others by a federal court.

“These laws are lifesaving tools,” said McBath. “They have been passed by state legislatures controlled by Republicans and Democrats and signed into law by governors of both parties.”

More than a dozen states have already passed red flag laws including Florida, which passed the law after the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland in 2018.

According to the Florida Office of the State Courts Administrator, there have been almost 6,000 petitions for risk protection orders filed from March 2018 through March 2022 throughout the state.

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Unlike most other gun control proposals, red flag laws are showing signs of some bipartisan support, though there is still an uphill battle for Democrats.

Florida’s two Republican Senators, Sen. Rick Scott and Sen. Marco Rubio, introduced their own bill that would use federal funds to incentivize states to adopt similar laws to the one in Florida.

Some Republicans have said they are open to negotiating a red flag proposal.

“The concept is kind of broadly appealing, but the details are really, really tough. So, that’s a discussion,” said Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA).

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But even with some bipartisan support, passing it the Senate won’t be easy, given the strong pushback from many Republicans on most gun control measures.

“You see Democrats and a lot of folks in the media whose immediate solution is to try to restrict the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens. That doesn’t work,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) shortly after the Uvalde mass shooting.

There has been Republican pushback at the state level in some cases as well.

In Oklahoma, state lawmakers passed the nation’s first anti-red flag law in 2020 which bans any state government agency from enacting the policy.

Negotiations on Capitol Hill are on-going.