Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on Red Flag laws — its first gun violence prevention hearing this Congress. At the hearing, Senators from both sides of the aisle and witnesses discussed the importance of this policy, which allows immediate family members and law enforcement to ask a court to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns when there is evidence that they pose a serious threat to themselves or others.
Watch some key moments from the hearing:
- Republican Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said, “We live in contentious times, maybe this is something we can find common ground on and I think it would be good for the country… I really can’t see a reason why we can’t pursue this at the federal level, to incentivize states to do what others are already doing. The benefits are enormous.”
- Democratic Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein of California entered into the record a letter from the San Diego City Attorney which said, “our office has found California’s Red Flag law to be a powerful tool for protecting residents and police officers from senseless gun violence. Gun rights advocates closely monitor our work. They have yet to bring to our attention a case where they believe the law was improperly granted.” California’s Red Flag law has been on the books since 2014.
- Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas said, “Extreme risk laws of the kind we are discussing can potentially be part of the solution set, that targeting those that pose an extreme risk…is a law enforcement tool that can be helpful in preventing crimes of violence.”
- Democratic Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont said, “I come from a state that has its [Red Flag] law passed. It was signed into law by a Republican Governor in a state that has a very large percentage of gun owners.”
- Kimberly Wyatt, a prosecutor who supervises the enforcement of Washington State’s Red Flag law said Red Flags laws “allow much-needed intervention to prevent suicide, homicide, and other acts of community violence while at the same time protecting people’s constitutional rights with due process built in.” She went on to say: “I don’t have concerns over our specific statute because due process is built in at each phase. And I can help explain that if that’s helpful to the committee – specifically that anything that we do with law enforcement or a family member that is coming to petition is coming before the court, so there is nothing being done on their own accord. It all goes before a judicial officer. They are filling out a petition that is sworn under penalty of perjury then they are also going into court attesting to those facts once again being examined at the ex parte phase as well.”
Fourteen states and D.C. have already passed Red Flag laws, including eight in 2018 alone. Five of the laws passed last year were signed by Republican governors. Shortly after the Parkland mass shooting, President Donald Trump expressed support for Red Flag laws. Last year, the Federal Commission on School Safety, formed by the Administration after Parkland, endorsed Red Flag laws. And during his confirmation hearing in front of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, now-U.S. Attorney General William Barr said that Red Flag laws were “the single most important thing we can do in the gun control area to stop these mass shootings from happening in the first place.”
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