Republicans Support Extreme Risk Laws
According to recent data from the Centers for Disease Control, more Americans are killed by guns than by car accidents, and for the first time in 2018, guns were the leading cause of death among children and teens. In a country where gun violence is no longer the third rail of politics, but a crisis that affects communities and families across the country, extreme risk laws (also known as red flag laws) have significant Republican support—from voters, the Trump administration, Members of Congress, and red states.
Extreme risk laws are a critical tool that allow law enforcement and family members to intervene before a tragedy. Where there is evidence that someone poses a serious risk of injuring themselves or others with a gun, law enforcement or family members can ask a judge to temporarily restrict that person’s access to firearms. These laws—currently on the books in 18 states and Washington, D.C.—are a proven way to reduce firearm suicide, combat mass shootings, and prevent tragedies.
Republican voters overwhelmingly support extreme risk laws.
According to an August 2019 poll, “enacting red flag laws, which give family or law enforcement a way to remove guns from someone who is exhibiting violent or unstable behavior,” is supported by: 87% of American voters, 82% of Republicans, 81% of gun owners, 71% of NRA members, and 75% of people who plan to vote to reelect President Trump in 2020. And voters won’t stand for a weak red flag law, either—by a 46-point margin, Republican voters believe that we need to pass a national red flag law that helps enforce already strong state laws, not a weak one that penalizes states that have already taken strong action.
The White House and executive branch support extreme risk laws.
- President Trump has repeatedly expressed his support for extreme risk laws, saying “we must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that, if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process.”
- The Federal Commission on School Safety, formed by the President in the wake of the Parkland shooting and headed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, recommended extreme risk laws as a prevention measure.
- In his confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee last year, now-Attorney General William Barr testified, “I also think we need to push along the ERPOs (Extreme Risk Protection Orders), so we have these red flag laws to supplement the use of the background check to find out if someone has some mental disturbance. This is the single most important thing I think we can do in the gun control area to stop these massacres from happening in the first place.”
Republicans in Congress support extreme risk laws.
In Congress, multiple Republicans in both chambers have expressed support for extreme risk legislation in recent years, introducing several bipartisan bills in the House and Senate.
- Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has been a major proponent of extreme risk legislation, holding a bipartisan hearing on the issue, introducing a bipartisan federal bill last Congress, and working currently on a new extreme risk bill for this Congress. A gun owner himself, he has repeatedly called for federal action, saying things like “restricting access to firearms from those who pose an imminent danger to themselves or others is a strong step forward in protecting public safety” and “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. The benefits are enormous.”
- Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Susan Collins (R-ME) have also (co)sponsored bipartisan extreme risk legislation, and a variety of other Senate Republicans have expressed support for the policy, including Senators Chuck Grassley (R-IA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Mike Braun (R-IN), Rob Portman (R-OH), and Pat Toomey (R-PA).
- As then-Governor of Florida, Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) signed that state’s extreme risk bill into law, and last fall published an op-ed in the Washington Post titled, “I’m a gun owner and NRA member. I support red-flag laws to help stop mass shootings.”
- Even Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) has said, “Extreme risk laws of the kind we’re discussing can potentially be part of the solution set, that targeting those that pose an extreme risk, that have serious mental illness and pose a threat to themselves or others, is a law enforcement tool that can be helpful in preventing crimes of violence.”
- Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, multiple Republican Members have sponsored extreme risk legislation, including Reps. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-01), Chris Smith (R-NJ-04), Susan Brooks (R-IN-05), and Fred Upton (R-MI-06).
Red states—as well as purple and blue states—support extreme risk laws.
Eighteen states have enacted extreme risk laws, thirteen of which have been passed in the two years since the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. They include red states like Vice President Mike Pence’s home state of Indiana, blue states like Washington, and purple states like Colorado. And seven of those laws have been signed by Republican governors: Bruce Rauner of Illinois, Larry Hogan of Maryland, Charlie Baker of Massachusetts, John Rowland of Connecticut, Mitch Daniels of Indiana, Phil Scott of Vermont, and then-Governor and current U.S. Senator Rick Scott of Florida.
Too often before a shooting, family members or law enforcement see warning signs, but are unable to intervene. Extreme risk laws provide them with the mechanism by which to do so, while protecting due process and respecting the Second Amendment. That’s why there is such overwhelming support for extreme risk laws—by veterans, corporations, and Republicans at all levels of government.