Congress Holds Hearing on Possible Gun Policy
Progressive Lawmakers Want to Create "Red Flag" Laws
By Timothy Nerozzi
September 22, 2019
Democrats aren’t waving the white flag on efforts to implement new gun laws. In fact a new push from progressive lawmakers would create “Red Flag” laws designed to prevent individuals deemed at risk from purchasing guns. Though critics feel such laws are redundant, such laws seeks to give authorities the right to temporarily remove legal gun owners’ firearms due to a suspicion that they may hurt themselves or others.
“There already exists laws to deal with people who are deemed a danger to themselves or others — so-called Baker Acts or 302s,” said John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center, Lott in an interview with Zenger News. “Unlike these existing laws, Red Flag Laws do not provide the same mental health or legal protections and the only mechanism allowed to the judge under Red Flag Laws is to take away a person’s guns.”
Lott served as a witness on gun violence statistics and the effectiveness of gun regulation on preventing firearm deaths on the Congressional panel titled Gun Violence in America: Understanding and Reducing the Costs of Firearm Injuries and Deaths.
“Many Americans, including some of our witnesses, have borne in their own lives the unspeakable costs of gun violence. It is important for Congress to listen to their voices,” said chairman Rep. Mike Lee (R-UT) at the opening of the hearing. “I hope that this committee can present to the rest of our country a model for respectful conversation about some very difficult topics, so that we can work together to reduce the number of lives lost to gun violence.”
Lee was assisted in running the event by vice-chair Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who opened her own statement with a call for swift implementation of gun control measures.
“Other countries have drastically reduced gun violence – because they found the courage to act,” said Maloney, in reference to gun control laws in Australia and New Zealand.
Lott criticized the government’s conception of how universal background checks should be implemented, claiming that they were ineffective and disproportionally affected low-income citizens and minorities.
Instead, Lott proposed an alternative style of background checks that he claimed would be less discriminatory and less likely to result in erroneous results.
“If politicians want background checks to stop criminals from getting guns, rather than create headline-driving, racially-biased false-positives, there is a simple fix: require that the government does background checks in the same way that the government forces private companies to do background checks on employees – make them use all the information available, including exact names and birthdates,” said Lott in his written testimony.
A large bar graph chart titled “Rates of Death by Firearms” sat ominously behind the congressional panel as the hearing convened. The U.S.’s uniquely large share of firearm-related deaths was highlighted in red.
Other speakers took the opposite view.
Tina Meins, a gun-control activist whose father was killed in the terrorist attack in San Bernadino in 2015, emphasized the unseen personal impacts experienced by the loved ones of those killed by gun violence. While she stressed the emotional and mental toll that families must go through due to the loss of their loved ones, she also laid out the ways in which this grief can be compounded by work and financial issues.
Taxation on donations to victims funds and direct taxation on charitable donations received by the Meins family have caused issues for them with the IRS that are still ongoing.
“Even after the immediate hospital costs, survivors of gunshot wounds face a lifetime of medical care costs including readmission to the hospital and nursing care,” Meins said in advocating for Red Flag Laws.
“The House of Representatives has already passed bipartisan legislation to require background checks on all gun sales and is considering a strong Red Flag law. Now, the Senate must act on background checks and pass a strong Red Flag bill.”
Adam Skaggs, Chief Counsel and Policy Director at Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, testified to the public on the economic costs of gun violence.
“Beyond the devastating toll it imposes on American families and communities, gun violence imposes extraordinary costs on the American economy,” said Skaggs.
Skaggs, citing a study from the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, claimed that gun violence cost the American economy more than $229 billion annually.
“This totals includes direct costs like emergency transport, medical and mental health treatment, as well as law enforcement, court and prison expenses,” said Skaggs. “They also entail indirect costs like lost wages, and the reduced quality of life for those who live with permanent injuries and pain.”
Dr. Susanna Hupp, a former member of the Texas House of Representatives and survivor of the 1991 mass shooting in Killeen, Texas, testified against various popular ideas of gun control legislation.
“Since that day in ‘91, we have seen many, many more of these terrible events. And the vast majority of them have occurred in places where guns are not allowed and good people are not allowed to protect themselves,” said Hupp.
Hupp proposed, as an alternative to legislation taking guns out of the hands of legal citizens, focusing on proactive threat assessment and intervention for at-risk or dangerous individuals who show signs of turning violent.
“We have heard so many stories where relatives of these killers reached out to law enforcement or others ahead of time. We have said, ‘If you see something, say something.’ But there is currently no cohesive system to follow through on the concerns,” said Hupp. “So the next phase in the evolution is to create that cohesive system to give law enforcement, mental health, and other members of society the tools they need to properly follow up on these concerns and prevent these terrible events.”