Red-flag gun laws targeted by bill pushed Missouri Republican legislator

By: - February 23, 2023 6:30 am

Legislation debated Wednesday seeks to prevent federal law from allowing courts to confiscate firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens(Aristide Economopoulos for New Jersey Monitor).

The Missouri Senate General Laws Committee heard testimony Wednesday about a bill that would create the Anti-Red Flag Gun Seizure Act.

Red flag gun laws allow courts, when petitioned, to bar individuals deemed a threat to themselves or others from owning firearms.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Bill Eigel, R-Weldon Spring, seeks to prevent federal law from allowing courts to confiscate firearms, firearm accessories or ammunition from law-abiding citizens. Those confiscations would be considered an infringement of second amendment rights, according to the bill summary.

The bill would also block local law enforcement agencies and other public entities from receiving federal funding aimed to help enforce those confiscations. Federal crime legislation signed by President Joe Biden last year included federal financial incentives to states that passed red flag gun laws.

Eigel said the Missouri Department of Public Safety was recently awarded $5.4 million from the federal government to be used for crisis intervention programs, which may include red flag laws.

“The federal government is very aware of how vulnerable the state of Missouri is and because of how much it likes receiving federal money,” Eigel said.

Aaron Dorr of the Missouri Firearms Coalition emphasized that the bill does not apply to people who are felons or have domestic violence convictions.

“At the end of the day, our members are very concerned about red flag laws,” Dorr said. He asked the committee to advance the bill in order to “block them altogether” in Missouri.

Kristin Bowen, a volunteer with the Missouri chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, spoke in opposition to the bill.  She called it “a dangerous piece of legislation” and noted that Missouri has some of the weakest gun laws in the country.

“Missourians,” she said, “have been paying the price with their lives.”

Bowen pointed to the mass shooting at Central Visual and Performing Arts High School in St. Louis in October last year. She said this tragedy was preventable.

“Constant heartbreak should not and cannot be our reality in Missouri,” Bowen said. “We should be working instead of taking steps backward. We should be taking steps forward that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals and support communities who want to enact their own solutions.”

Sen. Doug Beck, D-Affton, spoke about the events leading up to the St. Louis school shooting in which Missouri’s gun laws “failed” the people who died.

“The laws that are passed here, the loopholes that have been passed here by this body — by Republicans, not me, by people like this — that have passed these things, and that’s why these things are happening,” Beck said.

Bowen said it is important to help law enforcement officers take guns away from people, including children, who should not have easy access to them.

Sen. Rick Brattin, R-Harrisonville, suggested that just because red flag laws exist does not necessarily mean that tragedies will be prevented.

In response, Bowen said it comes down to how these red flag laws are implemented.

“The reality is that when a person is in crisis, family members and law enforcement are the first to see the warning signs,” Bowen said. “And if they have the tools available to them, they can act.”

Brattin said red flag laws violate one’s right to due process, but Bowen disagreed. Bowen said there is a hearing and people are allowed to have counsel.

Bowen also said it is important to work harder to educate people — adults and parents in particular — about how to properly and safely store their guns.

Brattin talked about whether kids could be educated about gun safety practices in schools. Bowen said that kids having this safety training does not seem to change whether they act impulsively.

“The evidence shows that gun laws do save lives, and I think that what we’re doing is not working,” Bowen said. “And a majority of Missourians would agree that the tragic loss of life is not okay, and the direction we’re going in is not okay.”

The story originally appeared in the Columbia Missourian. It can be republished in print or online.

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