Editorial Roundup: Pass red flag law to curtail gun violence
Published 8:50 pm Tuesday, February 21, 2023
Minnesota’s debate about red flag gun safety laws has focused on DFL politics, gun owner rights and nuanced legal arguments about due process. There’s far too little attention on what matters: people killed by gun violence or those using guns to take their own life.
In Minnesota, 70% of gun deaths are suicides, according to the advocacy group Protect Minnesota, which favors red flag laws. Studies show that red flag laws prevent suicides, according to a study by Duke Law School, and also prevent mass shootings, according to a study by the University of Michigan.
Democrats, with full control of the House, Senate and governor’s office, are proposing a red flag law again and have a better chance than in the past of passing a bill. The House bill has advanced through two committees while the Senate has yet to take up a bill. The vote will be much closer in the Senate, where Democrats have a one-vote majority with some Democrats not committing to voting in favor it just yet.
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The House bill would allow certain people, including law enforcement, to petition a court to take guns away for 14 days from a person who is a danger to themselves or others. The judge could grant that initial order without input from the person whose gun would be taken away. After the initial period, the order could be extended for a year, but a hearing would include the person whose gun was being confiscated.
The Minnesota County Attorneys Association and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association back the bill, as does the Minnesota Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association backs the concept of the bill and the sheriff’s association is neutral, according to a report in MinnPost.
The American Civil Liberties Union has questioned the bill on due process grounds. The group has written a letter against the proposal, saying it will expand the state’s right to search and seizure without due process. Gun owners associations and the National Rifle Association oppose the bill.
If to get the law on the books the bill has to be amended to allow for the subject of the petition to appear at the first hearing, we think that’s a fair compromise. There’s far more benefit to society than harm to individuals in passing a red flag law.
Rep. Paul Novotny, R-Elk River, also makes a good point that not hearing the person having their guns taken away could put police in more danger when they try to seize those weapons.
Some 19 states, including conservative Florida, have red flag laws and polls show they are generally favored by the public. A MinnPost poll in June, after the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting shows 64% either favored or strongly favored red flag laws.
One Senate Democrat, Grant Hauschild of Hermantown, recently won a swing district where gun rights are popular. He has not tipped his hand on how he will vote but says he will listen to constituents.
We hope he will listen to those constituents who are part of the 64% who favor reasonable red flag laws.
We believe the focus should be on public safety and the lives red flag laws can save. People won’t be concerned with politics when they have to bury their loved ones in another preventable case of gun violence.
— Mankato Free Press, Feb. 19