Congressman Salud Carbajal and Senator Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.) today introduced the Extreme Risk Protection Order Expansion Act, a bill to help states enact laws that allow family members and law enforcement to acquire temporary court orders to have guns removed from dangerous individuals.
The bill would create a new federal grant program to help enact extreme risk protection orders laws, more commonly referred to as red-flag laws. When Congress passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act last year, it expanded the existing Justice Department’s Byrne JAG Program to allow states to apply for assistance creating these laws. However, those funds can be used for other purposes. This bill would create a new grant program dedicated solely to helping states enact red-flag laws.
One state that has already enacted such a law is California, where an extreme risk protection order law was passed in 2016 after a gunman killed six students in Isla Vista. The shooter had exhibited warning signs on social media and his mother warned local law enforcement about his behavior. Unfortunately, they were powerless to stop him from obtaining a gun.
However, only 19 states and the District of Columbia currently have extreme risk protection order laws. This bill is intended to make it easier for more states to enact these life-saving laws.
“When Congress voted to approve the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, we took an important first step in recognizing the important difference that red flag laws can make in curbing gun violence by investing $750 million to expand their implementation across our country,” said Congressman Carbajal. “I’m proud to join Senator Feinstein to introduce legislation that would build on the success of last year’s bipartisan gun safety law by introducing legislation by creating a dedicated fund to help our states implement Extreme Risk Protection Orders, train our officers and judicial system to use them, and promote knowledge of them in our communities. As we saw in my community of Isla Vista in 2014, and countless mass shootings since, these attacks have warning signs. They have precursors that can be noted by loved ones or law enforcement. And red flag laws are a key tool that can help heed these warning signs and protect a community from gun violence from those that pose a danger to themselves and others.”
“I’m extremely proud we were able to get provisions of this bill included in last year’s Bipartisan Safer Communities Act,” said Senator Feinstein. “The bill we’re introducing today builds on that progress, making it easier for states to access the funding necessary to implement lifesaving red-flag laws.
“Too often, family members recognize the warning signs but are powerless to stop a loved one who intends to harm themselves or others with a gun. By enacting commonsense red-flag law, states would give families and law enforcement the tools needed to safely and lawfully intervene and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.”
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Expansion Act would allow states to use federal funding to enact laws to allow family members to petition a court for a gun violence prevention order to temporarily block dangerous individuals from purchasing weapons from federally licensed dealers. If a prevention order is granted, the individual would be designated a prohibited purchaser in the NICS background check system.
States could also enact laws that would allow family members to petition a court for an extreme risk protection order that would grant law enforcement the authority to temporarily take weapons from dangerous individuals who present a threat to themselves or others. The bill contains significant due process protections by ensuring confidentiality and the opportunity to be heard by a judge.
In the House, the bill is cosponsored by Representatives Don Beyer (D-Va.) and Julia Brownley (D-Calif.).
In the Senate, the bill is cosponsored by Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.).