by Ariana Figueroa, Georgia Recorders [This article first appeared in the Georgia Recorder, republished with permission]
June 9, 2022
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a “red flag” gun control bill that would allow federal courts to temporarily revoke a firearm from an individual deemed a threat to themselves or others.
In a near-partisan vote, 224 to 202, the House passed Georgia Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath’s bill known as the Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act. Five Republicans voted with Democrats, including Pennsylvania’s Brian Fitzpatrick, Michigan’s Fred Upton and Ohio’s Anthony Gonzalez.
One Democrat voted against the law — Jared Golden of Maine.
“We are voting (today) to provide law enforcement and family members with the tools they need to prevent these mass shootings,” McBath said. Currently, the District of Columbia and 19 states have red flag laws designed to prevent gun violence.
The legislation is unlikely to get far in the evenly divided Senate, where a bipartisan group continued to negotiate compromise gun control measures on Thursday. But its passage represented a year-long gun safety goal for McBath, who became an attorney after her 17-year-old son Jordan Davis was murdered at a Florida gas station in 2012.
Jordan was shot by a white man who was angry at the loud music being played by the black teenager and his friends.
“So in the ten years since my son was taken from me by a man with a gun just for playing loud music in his car, I’ve made a promise to Jordan, my community, and the American people,” McBath said on the house floor. “A promise that I will continue this fight for the rest of my life.”
McBath recently won a primary over fellow Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux in a new congressional district after Georgia Republicans redrawn the state’s congressional district map and turned McBath’s district into a Republican stronghold.
In the weeks leading up to the primary, gun control group Everytown for Gun Safety spent $1 million on television advertising to promote McBath.
McBath has said that during her time in Congress, she acted out the pain of her son’s death. “We voted to save our children’s lives, protect our families and do what is right,” McBath said in a statement.
Horrific mass shootings in recent weeks in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas have prompted the White House and Democrats to make a fresh push for gun control legislation, despite pessimism, anything can move forward in a polarized Congress.
On May 14, a white supremacist who had written about his belief in a racist conspiracy theory known as “the great substitute” traveled to a grocery store in a predominantly black Buffalo neighborhood and killed 10 black people. On May 24, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.
In response, the House of Representatives on Wednesday 223-204 passed a package of eight gun control bills that raise the age for purchasing semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21, create new requirements for keeping guns in a household with children, prevent the gun trade , demanding that all firearms be traceable, and closing the loophole on bump stocks, devices that, among other things, increase the rate of fire of semi-automatic weapons.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee also heard from victims of gun violence, including survivors of the Buffalo and Uvalde mass shootings.
During Thursday’s ground debate on McBath’s bill, Republican opponents argued that red-flagged laws were unconstitutional. McBath’s bill, he describes, would authorize and establish procedures for federal courts to issue federal orders to protect against extreme risks. Federal extreme risk protection would prevent a person from purchasing, owning, or obtaining a firearm or ammunition.
A family or household member, or a law enforcement officer, could apply for a federal extreme risk protection order for a person who poses a risk to themselves or others.
GOP Reps Debbie Lesko of Arizona and Lisa McClain of Michigan accused Democrats of taking away their guns.
“(Democrats) want to take away my right to protect my grandchildren,” Lesko said.
Rep. Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican, said the law would allow the government to take away a person’s gun “if you haven’t committed a crime.”
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat, said her party’s intention is not to “take away your right to own a gun, but to use common sense.”
“The American people are asking us to protect their community,” she said.
Rep. Madeline Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat, said Congress has a duty to intervene when someone is in danger to themselves or others.
“We don’t have to live like this,” she said.
Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said the bill “provides a reasonable means of preventing someone who engages in dangerous behavior from owning or buying a firearm, before tragedy occurs.”
He added that “every court that has examined (red flag laws) has found them constitutional.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat, added that red-flag laws also help prevent suicide deaths.
“This will protect not only from mass shootings, but also from the silent daily massacre of suicide and gun crime,” Pelosi said.
Senate negotiations continue
At the Senate gun control talks, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday morning that Democratic Connecticut chief negotiator Chris Murphy “reported that the group is making good progress and they hope to get something right very soon.”
“Once the bipartisan group has reached an agreement, I want to put a measure up for a vote as soon as possible,” Schumer said.
“The overwhelming consensus of our group, gun safety advocates, and the American people is that even if we can’t get everything we know we need, it’s worth doing something about gun violence,” Schumer continued.
“The work to heal our nation from mass shootings will continue long after this debate has ended, but in this moment we have a moral obligation to make real progress because it is critical to take concrete steps to reduce gun violence.” ‘ Schumer said.
Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the Republican negotiator, said Thursday that reaching a framework by the end of this week was “desirable,” but noted bipartisan talks will continue throughout the weekend.
“The great thing about everyone texting is that there’s a lot of communication,” Cornyn said.
The former Senate Republican, who resigned after serving his term, said he was already thinking about how to get a large number of his GOP peers to vote on a potential bipartisan bill.
If all 50 Democrats back an eventual package on guns, mental health and school safety, only 10 Republicans would need to support the measure. But Cornyn said he would like a clearer demonstration of bipartisan support for a potential deal.
“Right now I feel like there’s a critical mass of support for doing something and it’s huge because here sometimes people really don’t have the will to get a result but they want the issue for political ones Purposes or something,” Cornyn said.
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