State

Democrats Propose Red Flag Laws, Other Restrictions on Gun Possessions

In the wake of the mass murders at El Paso and Odessa in 2019, conversation on gun control took center stage among politicians and some Republicans signaled a willingness to work toward a compromise aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous or mentally unstable people.

While Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick doubled-down in a series of radio interviews encouraging “discussion” on expanded background checks, Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX-02) called for a conversation about extreme risk protective orders (ERPOs), known colloquially as “red flag” laws.

But those calls for compromise came in the fall after the last legislative session and lawmakers did not convene again until the current session began in January, well after plenty of time and other major political events transpired.

With the recent inauguration of President Biden, many GOP officials have dug into their rhetorical trenches to position themselves against Second Amendment infringements under the new administration.

Many Republican lawmakers have filed pro-gun legislation and Gov. Greg Abbott, who only three years ago released a report that encouraged state legislators to consider enacting a red flag law, has called for Texas to be a “Second Amendment sanctuary.”

On the left, though, Democrats have not forgotten about their promises to pursue increased gun control, including the enactment of red flag laws.

Under these laws, courts can grant orders to seize weapons from gun owners based on “red flag” warning signs that they may be a harm to themselves or others.

Eighteen other states have enacted some version of the law, though there are variances on who can petition a court to have another’s guns confiscated.

Democrats have filed bills in both chambers of the Texas legislature that would create ERPOs in the Lone Star State.

In the House of Representatives, Reps. Terry Meza (D-Irving) and Joe Moody (D-El Paso) filed House Bill (HB) 164 and HB 395, respectively.

The two identical pieces of legislation would allow family members or peace officers to petition a court to confiscate another’s weapon on the basis of the person’s “dangerous behavior” or mental illness.

If the judge finds the petition satisfactory, the court, “without further notice to the respondent and without a hearing, may issue a temporary ex parte order prohibiting the respondent from purchasing, owning, possessing, or controlling a firearm.”

The court would be required to hold a hearing with the gun owner no later than 14 days after the temporary confiscation order is issued.

Knowingly making a false statement “with the intent to deceive” in a petition to confiscate a firearm would be a Class B misdemeanor.

Similar legislation has been filed in the Senate by Sens. Boris Miles (D-Houston) and Royce West (D-Dallas).

In contrast to the red flag laws proposed by Democrats, Rep. Briscoe Cain (R-Deer Park) filed an “anti-red flag” bill, which would prohibit the enforcement of federal or local red flag laws.

However, any ERPO on the books in Texas would be exempt from the red flag prohibition.

In response to a questionnaire to The El Paso Times, Moody said “the number one change” needed for state gun laws after the rampage at the Walmart in El Paso “is a ‘red flag’ law.”

“The El Paso shooter’s mother called police before the massacre here, concerned about him owning the very same AK-47-style rifle he used to murder 23 of us last August,” said Moody.

“They told her there was nothing they could do, and while she didn’t know how unstable he’d become when she called, the answer would’ve been the same even if she had. I’ve been fighting to provide that missing tool, and I’ll continue that fight until it’s done.”

According to a CNN report, lawyers for the gunman’s mother said that her call was “informational.”

The public safety officer who answered the call said that the mother was concerned that her son was not mature enough to own the “AK-style” gun, but that she did not believe he was suicidal or had threatened anyone else.

Moody has also filed HB 1253, which would require counties to establish task forces to ensure that persons prohibited from possessing firearms under court orders surrender any guns that they have.

Along similar lines as red flag laws, several Democratic lawmakers have filed bills that would extend the prohibitions of firearm possession in Texas to persons that commit certain crimes.

Meza’s HB 210 would require anyone convicted of family violence or who is the subject of a protective order to surrender “all firearms the person owns” within seven days of a court order or being released from confinement.

Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston) filed the companion bill in the Senate.

Rep. Ana-Maria Ramos (D-Richardson) filed a bill that would accomplish the same, HB 1141.

Meza also filed HB 223 and HB 235 to expand the current five-year ban on owning weapons for those convicted of a Class A misdemeanor committed against household members to include those convicted of any violent misdemeanor and those convicted of any misdemeanor against close relations, respectively.

And Meza’s HB 229 would require law enforcement agencies to report convictions that prohibit firearm ownership or protective court orders to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) within 48 hours of the court order.

Rep. Vikki Goodwin (D-Austin) filed HB 1040 to prohibit a person from possessing a firearm “while the person is subject to a court order requiring chemical dependency treatment.”

HB 882, filed by Rep. Gina Hinojosa (D-Austin), prohibits someone from purchasing or receiving a firearm if the person is subject to an arrest warrant from the federal government or another state equivalent to a Class B misdemeanor or higher.

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