Lawmakers hold rare gun control hearing

Washington — Lawmakers on Capitol Hill are holding a rare hearing on gun control Tuesday morning to discuss so-called “red flag” laws enacted in several states to allow courts to issue orders confiscating the guns of individuals who are deemed to be a risk to others or themselves.

The Senate Judiciary Committee, led by Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham, will hear from policy experts, law enforcement officials and advocates — including a parent who lost her 19-year-old daughter to a shooting — during the public session, which is slated to start at 10:00 a.m. ET.

Follow along for updates from the hearing:

What are “red flag” laws?

Sometimes called “extreme risk protection order” laws, “red flag” laws are designed to allow family members or law enforcement officials to go to a state court and ask a judge to issue an order that confiscates the guns of an individual who they believe poses a threat to their safety.

Those seeking the restraining order must present evidence to the court as to why the individual poses a threat to others, as well as to himself or herself. If a judge agrees to write the order after holding a hearing, the guns of the individual would be removed on a temporary basis.

So far, only Connecticut, Washington, Indiana, California and Oregon have enacted these “red flag” proposals into state law. And more than a dozen other state legislatures are considering similar bills.

Who is testifying?

The senate panel will hear from a group of five policy experts, local law enforcement officials and advocates, including a parent who lost her daughter to a shooting. They are:

  • Ronald Honberg, senior policy adviser of the advocacy group National Alliance on Mental Illness
  • Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chair for the California chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Wilcox’s 19-year old daughter, Laura, was shot to death at a Nevada mental health clinic in 2001
  • Ric Bradshaw, Palm Beach County Sheriff
  • Kimberly Wyatt, prosecuting attorney at the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office
  • Dave Kopel, research director of the Independence Insitute and a gun rights advocate

Gun control: a contentious issue in Congress

Gun control has long been a highly contentious issue in Congress. Despite multiple mass shooting in which individuals have used high capacity, military-style weapons to kill dozens — from elementary school students at Sandy Hook in 2015, to revelers in an Orlando nightclub in 2016 — no federal gun control measures have passed in recent years.

Democrats have embraced gun control as one of their top legislative priorities, with many gun control advocates like Georgia Rep. Lucy MacBeth, whose 17-year-old son was shot to death in Florida, winning competitive suburban districts during the November midterm elections.

Most Republicans, meanwhile, continue to oppose any weapons ban, citing the “right to bear arms” enshrined in the Second Amendment. Democrats have accused their congressional colleagues in the GOP of being beholden to the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA).

The “red flag” proposals, however, have garnered bipartisan support in Congress, including from Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who agreed to hold Tuesday’s hearing.

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