Washington – While the U.S. Senate has resisted calls to return early from its summer break to address gun violence, a U.S. House panel will return to Capitol Hill before the recess is over to advance several gun bills, including one that would establish a federal “red flag” law.
After deadly shootings earlier this month reignited the debate over gun reform, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., said on Friday his panel would meet on Sept. 4 to consider several gun bills.
Nadler also scheduled a hearing in his committee on Sept. 25 on military-style assault weapons, which have been banned in Connecticut, but not in most states.
“For far too long, politicians in Washington have only offered thoughts and prayers in the wake of gun violence tragedies. Thoughts and prayers have never been enough,” Nadler said. “To keep our communities safe, we must act.”
The Judiciary Committee will consider two bills related to extreme risk protection orders, which are now used by 16 states besides Connecticut to remove guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others. Connecticut was the first to establish such a “red flag” law, in 1999, and since then has issued nearly 2,000 risk warrants.
One bill that will be considered by the committee would provide incentive through grants for other states to establish extreme risk protection programs. Another would establish a procedure for obtaining extreme risk protection orders from federal courts.
That could open the door to a federal red flag program that isn’t dependent on states voluntarily approving red flag laws.
Sens. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., is working with Sen. Lindsay Graham, R-S.C., on a Senate red flag bill, but details of the legislation have not been released.
“I’m glad to see the House Judiciary Committee moving ahead with a comprehensive slate of gun violence prevention measures, including Emergency Risk Protection Order legislation that I authored with Senator Graham,” Blumenthal said.
He said he’s working with Graham to develop “a version” of the legislation that can pass the Senate.
“We are making good progress toward introducing a proposal very soon and are working with our colleagues to build bipartisan support,” Blumenthal said.
In addition to considering a ban on high-capacity magazines, the House Judiciary panel will examine the Disarm Hate Act, introduced by Rep. David Cicilline, D, R.I. That measure prohibit firearm possession by those convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes, and would be enforced through FBI background checks of prospective gun buyers.
The Democratic-led U.S. House approved two bills in February that would expand the FBI’s background checks system. One would close a “loophole” that allows weapons sold by individuals over the internet and at gun shows to be exempt from background checks.
Another would would extend the FBI’s current three-day deadline to conduct a background check to as many as 20 business days, closing the so-called “Charleston Loophole” that allowed white supremacist Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a black church in Charleston, S.C, to buy a gun despite pending felony drug charges against him.
But the GOP-controlled Senate has not taken up that House-approved background check legislation — or any gun-related legislation.
The Democratic strategy is now to pressure Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to act by sending the Senate more gun bills. McConnell has agreed to have a debate on gun legislation when the Senate returns on Sept. 9, but has not endorsed any bill.
President Donald Trump has indicated potential support for strengthening background checks and “red flag” laws after the El Paso, Tex. and Dayton, Ohio mass shootings, but has yet to endorse any specific measures.
Recent comments by the president have focused instead on preventing people with mental illnesses from accessing weapons.