Senators concerned about red flag gun laws

Placeholder while loading article actions

Conservative Republicans on Capitol Hill are voicing growing objections to any federal effort to promote red flag laws designed to keep guns away from people who may commit murder or attempt suicide, a provision that has been at the center of bipartisan talks in the Senate. on gun control.

The reservations are released at a crucial time in the negotiations in the Senate, the senses. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) aiming to strike a handshake deal in the coming days that would see a bill pass Congress by the end of the month. Among those who have opposed are Senate Republican No. 3 Leader John Barrasso (Wyo.) and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), a prominent conservative House leader.

Barrasso said Thursday that “there is no role for the federal government for red flag laws,” even ruling out a federal program that would encourage them rather than impose them. “Wyoming will never pass one, and that’s a state decision,” he said.

Speaking in the House on Thursday, moments before lawmakers were to pass a red flag bill, Jordan asked “why are Republican senators pushing this” and “trying to bribe states to implement this.” He said: “We know what this thing is going to look like and how it’s going to violate due process. I hope they come to their senses and stand up for law-abiding American citizens and their basic freedoms and vote against this thing.

A sustained conservative backlash threatens to upend a cornerstone of Senate negotiations, which have been underway for about two weeks but have yet to yield a deal. The senses. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Lindsey O. Graham (RS.C.) led discussions on the red flag measure, which would likely involve establishing federal subsidies and standards to encourage states to implement their own laws.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have laws in place allowing authorities, and sometimes individuals, to seek red flag orders, also known as extreme risk protection orders. Although the laws differ in their specifics, they generally allow petitioners to ask a judge to issue a temporary order authorizing authorities to seize firearms from individuals or prevent them from purchasing new ones if they are turn out to be a threat to themselves or others.

The red flag laws have broad public support, according to recent polls. An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll taken after the May 24 shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, found that 73% of Americans support the red flag laws, including 60% Republicans and 61% homeowners. of firearms.

The House voted 224 to 202 on Thursday to pass a red flag bill, with five Republicans voting in favor and one Democrat opposing. Ahead of the vote, Republican leaders urged their members to oppose the bill, calling it “ill-conceived legislation focused on gun confiscation and undermining the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens.”

Hopes for gun deal fade as Senate negotiators plead for patience

Gun rights groups have consistently opposed the laws at the federal and state levels, calling them a backdoor gun confiscation effort that lacks due process and could be easily abused.

On Thursday, National Rifle Association spokeswoman Amy Hunter counted red flag laws among unwarranted gun control efforts that “attempt to treat the Second Amendment as a second-class disadvantaged right.” The group separately told lawmakers this week that it would consider Thursday’s House vote in future ratings and endorsements.

The laws, Hunter said, “empower judges to overrule Second Amendment rights by issuing ex parte orders without notice, eliminate the possibility of a fair hearing, and nullify other due process protections, including the presumption of innocence and fundamental fairness”.

The House bill combined a measure encouraging states to create their own laws with a more controversial bill that would allow family members or law enforcement officials to seek red flag orders in front of a federal court. Under the bill, a judge could immediately issue a 14-day restrain if they believe the person in question “poses a risk of imminent harm to themselves or another person.” A longer term order would require a hearing with the subject matter of the order.

State laws have different due process standards, and Senate negotiators have sought to iron out those details to the satisfaction of a critical mass of Republicans. Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-California), who sponsored the House measure urging states to act, said similar legislation would “form the basis” for a deal in the Senate. “They’re looking at a few other things that it’s a little harder to get consensus on, but the red flag bill is the one they seem to have the most consensus on,” he said.

But the Conservatives seem determined to undermine that consensus. Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) said Thursday that states are free to pursue red flag laws if they choose, but “it shouldn’t be something Congress has to meddle with.”

Daines, who is seeking to chair the Senate Republican campaign committee for the 2024 election cycle, added, “A lot of our states are swimming in cash right now after we shoveled in $7 trillion in covid money, so money is not the problem. States can do that if they think it’s the best thing to do. »

Other conservatives who have voiced their opposition include Sen. Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), who noted that a red flag law in New York did not prevent the May 14 mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket that killed 10 people, as well as Senator Roger. Marshall (R-Kan.), who called any red flag provision a “poison pill” for any Senate deal. “I don’t see how a red flag law passes here,” he said. “I believe this is a violation of the Second Amendment, and just as I stand up and fight to protect our freedoms of speech and our freedoms of religion, I will stand up and protect our Second Amendment.”

Lead negotiators, Murphy and Cornyn, meanwhile reported that they consider the red flag component of their negotiations to be very much alive. “I think we have a diversity of opinions within the Republican caucus, but I feel like there’s still a lot of support for state red flag bills and federal support for implementing proper and constitutional implementation of these laws,” Murphy said. said Thursday. Cornyn added separately, “There will be something about it, but not a national red flag law.”

Murphy declined to comment on whether a bipartisan agreement without a red flag element would be substantial enough to be worth passing. Negotiators are also discussing expanding federal background checks on gun buyers to incorporate records of minors, providing billions of dollars in new mental health funding and additional measures to strengthen security. schools.

Sen. Joe Manchin III (DW.Va), another member of the negotiating group, said it was “a no-brainer for me” to include a red flag provision. “I’m very confident that it would be great if we could fix this, and it has to be fixed somewhere,” he said.

Other Republicans involved in the negotiations also gave an upbeat assessment, including Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who said he supports federal support for states “if it preserves due process and if we we ensure that the rights of individuals are respected,” and Sen. Thom Tillis (RN.C.), who cited Florida’s Republican-backed Red Flag Act as a model. “It’s not mandatory. It’s optional,” he said. “Anyone who says there’s significant opposition to what we’re talking about right now, I just don’t see it in my discussions.”

While negotiators hope to secure the support of not just a minimum of 10 Republican senators, but potentially 20 or 30, the fate of the provision could fall on those like Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), another member of the Republican leadership who said they were waiting for more details and that it was “going to come down to definitions” because “everyone has a different thing in mind.” She said: “Right now the discussions are so broad that we haven’t really narrowed it down to anything. But I think the positive thing, the takeaway from all of this, is that people are pretty open-minded.

Paul Kane contributed to this report.

Comments are closed.