WASHINGTON (CN) – Reminding lawmakers that tell-tale signs of acute mental illness had gone unchecked when America suffered the deadliest school shooting in its history a year ago today, Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced bills Thursday to keep guns out of the hands of at-risk individuals.
Part of a federal effort to shore up state red-flag laws, the Extreme Risk Protection Order Acts would provide grant programs and incentives to states where individuals flagged as dangerous to themselves or others by family members and police can have their firearms removed temporarily by state courts.
Thirteen states and the District of Columbia already have red-flag laws in place.
“After each one of these terrible shootings, the question remains of how we face the next day,” Feinstein said Thursday. “It was the survivors of that shooting, the students, teachers and parents who answered that question. They rose up and said enough. We know that families and friends are in the best position to recognize early signs of trouble before tragedy strikes.”
In the House, a companion bill has been sponsored by Reps. Salud Carbajal of California, Ted Deutch of Florida and Don Beyer of Virginia — all Democrats — as well as by Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican.
“Giving family members and cohabitants the right to petition a court to have a firearm removed from someone found to be dangerous should not be controversial,” Fitzpatrick said in a statement Wednesday. “This process protects Second Amendment rights by ensuring due-process rights are respected during the judicial process.”
Despite broad support for bills like these across the aisle, the National Rifle Association had traditionally balked at red-flag laws, calling them mechanisms for diminishing due process. Changing that tune last year, however, the NRA released a video where Chris Cox, executive director of the group’s Institute for Legislative Action, voiced support for temporary restraining orders contingent on “strong due process protections [that] require that the person get treatment.”
John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety, said in an email that he “applauds” Congress’ efforts to introduce “a bipartisan Red Flags bill that will provide family members and law enforcement with the tools they need to step in before it’s too late.”
Representatives from the NRA did not return a request for comment.
Seventeen people were killed and another 17 injured on Feb. 14, 2018, when Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. The 20-year-old has offered to plead guilty in exchange for life in prison without the possibility of parole, but prosecutors have refused to strike a deal that would take the death penalty off the table.