Gun reform is making strange political bedfellows

Republicans favor red-flag laws while the Rhode Island ACLU is siding with Second Amendment enthusiasts.

By Amanda K. Field

Americans still love their guns but due to the relentless frequency of gun massacres across the nation, as well as grassroots reform efforts from groups such as Moms Demand Action and March For Our Lives, there seems to be a growing bipartisan appetite for reforming gun legislation on federal, state and local levels. The changing climate is creating strange bedfellows.

The Republican-led US Senate recently held a hearing on extreme risk protection orders (ERPO), also known as “red flag” laws, that would allow law enforcement and family members to “petition judges to temporarily restrict access to firearms from people who may be a harm to themselves or others.”  Senator Lindsay Graham, a gun owner, suggested that, while these laws probably won’t find enough support at the national level, federal law could incentivize states to pass red flag laws. Since the gun massacre at Parkland, nine states have, bringing the total number of states to have red flag laws on the books to 14, with 25 more state legislatures considering them.

These measures are finding traction with many conservatives.  “Republican-controlled legislatures in Indiana and Florida have passed such bills, and seven Republican governors have signed red flag bills into law,” reports Salon. Even National Review has endorsed them, stating “gun violence restraining orders make us all safer while empowering the individual and protecting liberty.”  A Trump-appointed US Attorney in Texas “has established one of the most aggressive records in the country for prosecuting domestic abusers who unlawfully keep guns.”

Regarding the red flag laws, the ACLU of Rhode Island is concerned about due process, endorsing legislation that addresses “serious imminent threats to the public safety while safeguarding robust due process procedures before granting the courts and law enforcement agencies potentially intrusive powers over the liberty of individuals charged with no crime.”  The conservative-minded Rutherford Institute argues that these laws advance the “surveillance state, potentially turning “every American citizen into a criminal suspect.” Senator Diane Feinstein urged the Senate to remember that while red flag laws are a vital part of the effort to prevent gun violence, they are part of a larger effort that to be effective must includes “universal background checks, closing the so-called Charleston loophole and banning assault weapons.”

No matter where you are on the political spectrum, Matt Deitch, former Parkland student and lead strategist of March For Our Lives, says keeping guns out of the hands of mass shooters “isn’t a partisan issue. None of us, gun owners or not, want this to continue.”

Photo by Kyle Johnson via Unsplash.

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