- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Key senators on Tuesday voiced support for legislation that would incentivize states to develop “red flag” laws that allow courts to suspend the gun rights of potentially dangerous people.

It could be one area of bipartisan cooperation on guns, amid what’s otherwise been a decades-long stalemate.

Sheriff Ric L. Bradshaw of Palm Beach County said it’s possible that last year’s Parkland shooter, Nikolas Cruz, could have been flagged and his gun removed from his possession, had Florida’s red flag law been in place then.

The FBI has acknowledged that it failed to follow up on tips alleging that the shooter had a gun and wanted to hurt people.

Sheriff Bradshaw, whose county neighbors Broward, where the shooting took place, said he’s developed a special division that teams law enforcement with mental health professionals to try to intervene when people show signs of dangerous behavior.

“If they would have had the type of unit that I have developed … and they are able to evaluate this person and get him to the place they need to have help, then Nikolas Cruz would have been taken out of that system and not been available to do what he had to do,” Sheriff Bradshaw said.

After the Parkland shooting, Florida passed a red flag law, joining 13 other states and the District of Columbia.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham said as long as states include constitutional safeguards, they should be encouraged to take the lead on those kinds of solutions.

“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,” said Mr. Graham, South Carolina Republican.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the committee’s top Democrat, said extreme-risk laws are “important tools” to keep guns out of the hands of “dangerous” people.

“This is a step — it’s not a big step, it’s a small step, it’s a sensible step — in the right direction,” Mrs. Feinstein said.

Still, she wants to go further, proposing expanded gun-purchase background checks and a ban on some military-style semiautomatic firearms.

The Democrat-led House has already passed legislation this year to expand federal gun background checks to cover virtually all gun sales and to extend the time licensed dealers have to wait to hear back from the FBI before proceeding with a sale.

But Mr. Graham said he doubts Congress is ready to issue those sorts of federal mandates.

“I think passing a federal law is probably beyond what the market will bear,” he said.

While red flag processes vary state to state, they generally give authorities a way to take guns from someone without going through a full criminal proceeding.

In Florida, police can petition a judge to issue an order for a set period of time banning possession or purchase of a firearm. Hundreds of orders were issued in the first year of the law, for reasons that included domestic violence accusations, mental illness or suicidal tendencies.

Across the country, at least 1,700 orders allowing guns to be seized were issued by courts in 2018, according to a tally from The Associated Press.

Kimberly Wyatt, a prosecutor who works on the issue in King County, Washington, said it absolutely would help the efforts of individuals states or counties if more states developed their own rules.

“We want to make sure that when a court in any jurisdiction is issuing one of these orders, that that individual cannot go to another state and purchase,” she told lawmakers.

Many gun-rights advocates, though, are wary about infringements on due process, and say it can be difficult for people to get their rights back once they’re flagged in the system that way.

Dave Kopel, research director at the Colorado-based Independence Institute, said nearly one-third of the orders are improperly issued against otherwise law-abiding people in some places.

“I support laws to remove firearms from people who pose an extreme risk — not based on some lesser standard as some bills with an extreme risk title, but very different text, do,” Mr. Kopel told the committee.

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