White House Launches New Push for ‘Red Flag’ Laws

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AP Photo/Evan Vucci

The White House has launched a new DOJ office to provide “resources” for states either looking to implement “red flag” laws or bolster their use where the law is already in place. Vice President Kamala Harris, who’s supposedly in charge of the White House gun control efforts, made the announcement while in Parkland, Florida on Friday; invoking the attack on students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and insinuating that if Florida had a “red flag” law in 2018 the shootings never would have happened. 

The truth is that there were multiple opportunities for both local and federal law enforcement to address the threat before the killer walked onto campus on February 14th. In 2022 DOJ settled a wave of civil lawsuits filed after the shootings, agreeing to pay more than $100 million to the families of victims, while maintaining the settlement is not an admission of wrongdoing.

The 40 civil cases, which included 16 of the 17 families of those killed, will receive a settlement of $127.5 million, according to a statement by the Justice Department.
“It has been an honor to represent the Parkland families who, through their immeasurable grief, have devoted themselves to making the world a safer place,” their lead attorney, Kristina Infante said, The Associated Press reported. “Although no resolution could ever restore what the Parkland families lost, this settlement marks an important step toward justice.” 
In their lawsuit, the families accused the FBI of negligence. They say the bureau received tips about Cruz, including his amassing of weapons and his desire to shoot up a school, but agents failed to intervene and prevent the violence.
Weeks before the shooting, a tipster told the FBI that Cruz was “going to explode,” and that he “was going to slip into a school and start shooting the place up.”

Florida didn’t need a “red flag” law then, and we don’t need more “red flag” laws now. 

Unfortunately, Congress didn’t have to authorize this specific office. Part of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act entailed spending hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to promote the establishment and use of “red flag” laws, and that’s where the funding is coming from. 

So what will this new office do, exactly? 

One thing it won’t do is set up a national Extreme Risk Protection Order statute, even though most Democrats in D.C. would love to see a federal law of that type on the books. Instead, the office, which will be run by the Bloomberg-funded Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, and will basically provide training, assistance, and advice to promote the use of “red flag” laws wherever possible

“OJP’s investment in ERPO programs demonstrates the Department’s commitment to addressing the gun violence crisis in the United States,” said OJP Assistant Attorney General Amy L. Solomon. “This crisis cannot be solved at one level of government. We must use all of our resources and collaborate at the federal, state, and local levels to find innovative, evidence-based, and holistic solutions to help keep American communities safe.”
Through the Center and its newly launched website, states, local governments, law enforcement, prosecutors, attorneys, judges, clinicians, victim service providers, and behavioral health and other social service providers will have direct access to critical information that will enhance their ability to reduce firearm homicides and suicides. The website will be maintained and updated to include newly developed resources for the field created through the Center, in partnership with BJA. The website also provides a platform for the Center to highlight emerging and promising practices in successful ERPO implementation and connect states and localities to innovative strategies to reduce gun violence and save lives.

“Emerging and promising practices”, eh? I’m guessing that includes New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s edict for the New York State Police to file “red flag” petitions at every given opportunity, which has led to an explosion in cases to the point that the state police is having trouble storing all of the guns its seized. 

As for “red flag” laws being evidence-based, I’d say the jury is actually still out. The main study that looked at the effects of “red flag” laws on suicide determined that Indiana’s “red flag” law led to a modest decline in overall suicides, but while gun-involved suicides declined in Connecticut after its ERPO law was implemented, overall suicide rates increased

Given that “red flag” laws only take guns away from someone deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or others while leaving the person free to use a knife, pills, matches and gasoline, and anything else they might turn into a weapon, it’s not surprising that the impact of the law where it’s in place appears to be negligible in terms of saving lives. And given that Extreme Risk Protection Order statutes are fundamentally about guns and not mental health, it’s also no surprise that the Biden administration is pushing for more blue states to put the law in place. This is the most anti-Second Amendment administration in U.S. history, and Harris’s announcement is right in line with Biden’s war on gun owners and our right to keep and bear arms. 

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