House Passes Red-Flag Bill as Senate Talks on Gun Violence Continue
WASHINGTON — The House on Thursday voted nearly along party lines to pass legislation that would allow guns to be temporarily confiscated from people deemed by a federal court to be dangerous, acting a day after it passed a sweeping measure to bar the sale of semiautomatic weapons to people under the age of 21 and ban the sale of large-capacity magazines.
The bill, which passed 224 to 202, would create what is known as a federal red-flag law that allows family members or law enforcement to obtain an “extreme risk protection order” for a person considered to be a danger to themselves or others. Currently, Washington, D.C., and 19 states already have such laws in place. The legislation would set it as a national standard.
The measure garnered only five Republican votes and stands little chance of enactment in its current form. But the idea is one that has some degree of bipartisan backing in the Senate and is a centerpiece of discussions among a small group of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate that is focused on finding a compromise that could draw the 60 votes necessary to move forward.
The group is discussing providing grant money to incentivize states to pass their own red-flag laws.
The action is unfolding after several mass shootings — including a racist attack that killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo and a school massacre in Uvalde, Texas, that killed 19 children and two teachers — have pushed the issue of gun violence to the forefront in Washington, where years’ worth of efforts to enact gun restrictions in the wake of mass shootings have failed amid Republican opposition.
“Over the past several weeks, we have watched in horror as gun violence has touched communities across the country and dozens of people, young and old, have lost their lives,” Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, said on Thursday. “The details of each case may differ, each tragic in its own way, but there is one theme that comes up most often: Someone deeply troubled, experiencing some sort of crisis, had easy access to firearms.”
In about 56 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2020, the attacker showed warning signs before the shooting, according to a report by Everytown, the leading gun safety organization. The report concluded that red-flag laws give community members a means to intervene, without going through the criminal court system, before those signs escalate into deadly attacks.
The separate wide-ranging gun control bill that passed the House on Wednesday stands no chance in the evenly divided Senate, where solid Republican opposition means it cannot draw the 60 votes needed to break through a filibuster and advance.
The more modest red-flag legislation that passed on Thursday was sponsored by Representative Lucy McBath, Democrat of Georgia, whose teenage son was shot and killed at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., in 2012, after a man approached him complaining about his loud music.
“Red-flag laws work to prevent school and mass shootings,” Ms. McBath said. “They work to keep those who may be contemplating suicide from accessing a weapon. They can be used to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them.”
Five Republicans — four of whom are leaving Congress this year — joined Democrats in supporting the measure: Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick of Pennsylvania, Anthony Gonzalez of Ohio, Chris Jacobs of New York, Adam Kinzinger of Illinois and Fred Upton of Michigan. One Democrat, Representative Jared Golden of Maine, opposed it.
In the Senate, bipartisan negotiations continued on Thursday, with Democrats saying they were optimistic about a compromise even as they conceded that securing one was a long shot.
“It’ll be a miracle if we get a framework agreement, never mind a final bill,” said Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, who has been his party’s lead negotiator in the talks. “I’m very optimistic. But miracles sometimes happen.”
Senator Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York and the majority leader, said on Thursday that he would bring gun safety legislation to the floor for a vote as soon as the bipartisan group comes to an agreement.
Even though the red-flag measures have drawn some Republican support in the Senate, House G.O.P. leaders urged their rank and file on Thursday to oppose the bill. In an alert to members, Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, the party’s whip, argued that the bill used “overly broad language” that trampled on Americans’ Second Amendment rights.
Underscoring the pressure on Republicans to oppose any gun safety measure, the American Firearms Association, a grass-roots organization, blasted out a fund-raising pitch on Thursday that referred to the five Republicans who voted for the House bill — who also supported the wide-ranging gun control measure the day before — as “traitors.”
The group also called the Senate Republicans negotiating the compromise bill “treacherous bastards” who want to “disarm the entire country.”