As reported yesterday by USA Today, the NRA has voiced conditional support for Red Flag Laws, which empower law enforcement and immediate family members to petition a court to temporarily prohibit a person from having guns if they present red flags for violent behavior. Explaining the benefits of Red Flag Laws in a video released last week, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, Chris Cox, said, “this can help prevent violent behavior before it becomes a tragedy.” While this could be an important reversal from an organization that has spent years advocating against these policies, the NRA has already issued a lengthy list of conditions any Red Flag bill would need to meet to win its support.
Although the NRA has opposed Red Flag bills in states including New Jersey, Minnesota and Missouri since the Parkland shooting, it has also found itself increasingly isolated as more and more elected officials from both parties embrace common-sense gun laws, including Red Flag Laws. Since the Parkland shooting, prominent Republicans including Govs. John Kasich (OH), Rick Snyder (MI) and Phil Scott (VT) have indicated a new openness to supporting Red Flag Laws, which are also referred to as Extreme Risk Protection Orders. And, earlier this month, the Republican legislature in Florida passed a Red Flag bill that the governor then signed into law.
Given the NRA’s history – which includes slowing bipartisan momentum to prohibit bump stocks by suggesting that regulators, not lawmakers, should decide the legality of these devices – the question remains whether this is a sincere effort from the NRA, or an attempt to deflect.
If the NRA is serious about supporting these important bills, it can make that clear by backing Red Flag proposals pending in 21 states: Alaska, Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Iowa, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Vermont and the District of Columbia. In Congress, Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) recently introduced a bill that would make Red Flag orders available in federal courts across the country.
With gun safety groups and elected officials from both major parties backing Red Flag legislation, the NRA has an opportunity to join public safety advocates, law enforcement and the majority of Americans by supporting strong, comprehensive Red Flag Law efforts across the country.