Sen. Marco Rubio’s proposal allows those targeted by a proposed bill to request a hearing to overturn the judge’s order.
Many of us harbor anguish, angst and anger in mourning of the innocents massacred in El Paso and Dayton by lunatics who saw inflicting violence on others as an escape from the miserable excuse of their lives. Amid that, gun control activists now demand lawmakers "do something" — and U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio has accepted that challenge.
The Florida Republican has urged fellow lawmakers to break from their August vacation and pass his "red flag" bill, which Rubio first proposed 17 months ago after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting.
President Donald Trump has said he would support such legislation, which may be the "something" that both gun rights and gun control activists can reach consensus on. We know Democrats wholeheartedly support anything that curtails Second Amendment rights. So, passing this will fall to Republicans, who still should tread lightly despite their desperate desire to shake the media narrative that they don’t care about gun violence.
Rubio’s bill largely tracks with the state law Florida enacted last year after the Douglas High massacre. It would encourage states to follow Florida by making funding available to support programs for Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or RPOs. Seventeen states now have such laws.
Rubio’s version would permit law enforcement officers or family members to petition a judge to confiscate guns belonging to people they believe is a significant risk to harm themselves or others. The subject would receive due process and be given a hearing. If a judge finds "clear and convincing evidence" of the threat, the person’s guns could be taken for up to a year. The order also may be renewed after expiration. In some cases, guns could be seized temporarily without the individual being involved in the process.
Rubio’s proposal allows those targeted by RPOs to request a hearing to overturn the judge’s order. But perhaps the most critical aspect of Rubio’s plan is that, like Florida’s law, it would be a felony to lie in order to persuade the judge.
Red-flag laws might be well-intentioned attempts to keep guns from folks who should not have them, especially those with a documented history of mental health problems, domestic violence or other menacing behavior.
One benefit of Florida’s law is that a neutral third party — law enforcement officers — pitch the case for RPOs to judges.
Gun control activists now seek to change Florida’s law to allow others to launch the RPO process. We see how that could be beneficial, but also the unintended consequences. As for Rubio’s legislation, it could help reduce the risk of some shootings, so long as the president and GOP lawmakers ensure it won’t be abused.
A longer version of this editorial first appeared in The Ledger in Lakeland.