Senator McConnell May Consider Red Flag Laws for Gun Reform
Despite frequent mass shooting within the last five years, the United States Congress has had little to no progress in passing gun reform laws. However, this fact may change soon after a recent announcement by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell has consistently been the biggest roadblock for changes in gun regulations in the past. He has even adopted the nickname the “Grim Reaper” of Democratic bills. Now, the senator is having a change in heart as he recently stated that “What we can’t do is fail to pass something.”
Senator McConnell spoke out about his recent discussion with President Trump on gun regulations. The majority of their conversation surrounded more substantial background checks and the implementation of “red flag laws.” The laws vary state to state, but generally it would allow the courts to issue temporary orders barring certain people from possessing firearms if they show dangers of becoming violent or a danger to others. Before an order is made there must be some sort of factual proof that suggests the respondent could pose a risk to themselves or others.
What Are Red Flag Laws?
If passed, the law would allow only specific people such as family or household members to petition a court for an extreme protection order. In some cases, the court will grant a preliminary order without notice to the respondent. The order is typically brief but can be up to about three weeks until the person who is subject to it has a chance to respond. Once they do, a more permanent order may be granted if the courts allow for up to one year.
These laws are related to a bipartisan proposal that was created be Senator Lindsey Graham, R-S.C, and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. The proposal would create a federal grant program that would encourage states to adopt these “red flag laws.” It would essentially pay states to implement red flag law programs and create a new national standard for states to be eligible for federal grants. The proposal is similar to federal highway laws where grants are only given to states who set speed limit and drunk driving standards.
The plan is supported by nearly all Senate Democrats as well as a growing number of Republicans such as Indiana’s Mike Braun and Iowa’s Chuck Grassley. Many hope that passing these red flag laws will bridge the issue between guns and mental health since it would allow family or concerned peers to take initiative if someone is showing signs of violence.
What is the Likelihood That They Pass?
The gun violence debate is at an all-time high in the United States after the recent tragic shootings in both Texas and Ohio. Citizens in both states and around the nation are demanding gun reform laws for more substantial background checks to deter future shootings. Legislators such as Governor Mike DeWine of Ohio are shifting their views on gun regulations after these devastating events. DeWine, who has had little to no interest in passing gun reform laws, is now stating that he wants to initiate a version of a “red flag” law in Ohio to reduce gun violence.
McConnell is facing enormous pressure after two back to back shootings that left 31 people dead. This was especially shown when protestors appeared outside his Louisville home demanding gun reform. He now states that “What I want to see here is an outcome,” and may consider passing the House Bill that would implement a red flag law federal grant program.
Although McConnell has been urged to act now, he has rejected the idea of reconvening the Senate to discuss the matter. Instead, the GOP leader states in August during recess he will open the discussion to both Republicans and Democrats to see what can be done. Senators on both sides are already conferencing to discuss their strategy.
McConnell states the reason he is waiting on the issue is because “If we do it prematurely, it’ll just be another frustrating position for all of us and for the general public.” There are also other firearm control laws that GOP senators are considering such as changes to the existing federal background check system as well as harsher penalties for hate crimes.
Democrats, however, state they will not compromise when it comes to background checks. Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer stated democrats will not settle for half-measures so Republicans can avoid the issue of gun violence. With all these matters coming to fruition, it seems likely the Senate is going to address some sort of gun reform in the near future.