GOP challenger to Rep. Chris Stewart says ‘red flag’ laws are not the solution to gun violence

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo) Casings of numerous caliber bullets litter the floor at The Gun Vault shooting range in South Jordan where a group of women with concealed carry permits regularly meet to train and learn safe and responsible gun handling skills.

A Republican looking to unseat Congressman Chris Stewart, R-Utah, in next year’s election says that while emotions are running high after a string of recent mass shootings, gun policy discussions should not be “knee-jerk” and emotionally-driven.

In a news release Thursday, Mary Burkett criticized politicians — including a growing number of Republicans — for touting so-called “red flag” laws as a solution to violent acts.

“As a candidate for Utah’s 2nd Congressional District, the very district where God-fearing people are responsible gun owners and the backbone of this country, I will stand against these red flag laws,” Burkett said. "It could not be simpler. Red flag laws restrict our rights and our rights come from God. Period.”

In the days following a pair of shootings in Texas and Ohio that left roughly 30 dead and dozens more injured, Utah Republican Reps. Stewart and John Curtis — as well as Sen. Mitt Romney — issued statements supporting the concept of red flag legislation, in which people deemed to be a danger to themselves or others can have their weapons seized under court order.

Stewart posted a video on Facebook saying that he always has and always will support an individual’s right to own a gun, while signaling support for laws creating extreme risk protection orders.

“For two years, I have supported legislation that would have taken weapons out of the hands of those who are mentally incompetent of dealing with them,” Stewart said. “That’s one of the things we absolutely have to focus on now.”

A representative for Stewart declined Monday to respond to Burkett’s statement, or to elaborate on the congressman’s position.