Senators: Allow feds to keep guns from people deemed threat
WASHINGTON (AP) — Senators from both parties are proposing to let federal courts keep guns away from people who show warning signs of violence in response to the deadly school shooting in Florida.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut said Thursday their bill is a common-sense proposal to save lives. At a news conference, Graham said the government encourages people who see something suspicious to “say something” to authorities.
He asked, “Isn’t it incumbent on government to do something” to prevent gun violence?
The bill is modeled on state “red flag laws” that let officials take guns away from people who are judged to pose an imminent danger to themselves or others. A federal law would fill gaps in state laws, Graham said, noting that only a handful of states allow gun-violence restraining orders.
“Guns and shooters cross borders,” Blumenthal said. “That’s why a federal solution is important.” A federal red-flag law “will save lives,” he said.
Police and the FBI received numerous warnings about the accused Florida shooter but did not move to take away his guns.
Graham and Blumenthal said they were motivated not just by the Feb. 14 shooting that killed 17 people in Parkland, Florida, but also by high-profile shootings in their home states — a 2015 massacre at a Charleston, South Carolina, church that killed nine people and a 2012 shooting that killed 20 school children and six adults in Newtown, Connecticut.
“I’m 62 years old. I’m tired of going home and telling people we just can’t do anything,” Graham said.
Blumenthal said he is frequently asked in Connecticut why Congress can’t stop dangerous people from having guns. “An aroused and outraged public” will be able to overcome opposition from the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups, he said.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed a law this week prohibiting domestic abusers and people under restraining orders from owning firearms.
Florida lawmakers, meantime, have approved a bill would let law enforcement officers petition a court for a risk protection order for individuals that show signs of harming themselves or others. Republican Gov. Rick Scott has not said whether he’ll sign it.
Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson have introduced a bipartisan bill to encourage states to adopt red-flag laws, with federal grants conditioned on meeting a series of requirements. Rubio is a Republican, and Nelson is a Democrat.
President Donald Trump has urged support for improved background checks in the wake of the Florida school shooting and has promised to issue an executive order barring the use of bump stock devices that enable guns to fire like automatic weapons.
Trump also has backed more controversial ideas, including increasing the minimum age for the purchase of assault weapons from 18 to 21, which is opposed by the NRA, and arming certain teachers, which the gun lobby supports. Trump met with representatives of the video game industry Thursday as he searches for ways to respond to the Valentine’s Day attack.