After a string of mass shootings this summer, Americans are demanding a response to curtail the violence. If we are looking to deliver a solution that reduces bloodshed and respects the rights of responsible gun owners, the only realistic action must be bipartisan.
This is why the recent focus on red-flag proposals from our Senate colleagues and the president is welcome. The most effective step Congress can take right now to prevent tragedies like those in Parkland, Fla.; Newtown, Conn.; and Dayton, Ohio, is to enact red-flag laws, which give law enforcement the ability to restrict gun access for unstable, potentially violent people, without infringing on other Americans’ rights.
That’s why, on the first day of this Congress, I reintroduced bipartisan legislation with Senators Susan Collins, Republican of Maine; Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island; and Angus King, independent of Maine.
We can see the consensus around red-flag legislation developing in real time. I commend Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, and Senator Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who have publicly voiced support for enacting a law that would provide financial incentives to states to adopt red-flag laws. Our bill does exactly that.
It’s no secret that you need a bipartisan coalition to pass legislation in the Senate, and we’ve already done the legwork. We can build off our proposal in order to put a law in place that can actually stop the next attack.
Red-flag laws empower law enforcement or family members to use the judicial system to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals. In Florida, when a concerned family member contacts the police about a person determined to be a threat to himself or others, the police can petition a judge to have his guns taken away for two weeks. After an additional hearing, the risk protection order can be extended for up to a year.
The laws do not infringe on the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners. In order for a state to be eligible for funding under our proposal, it would be required to enact strong due process protections and include a felony penalty for false reporting.
Red and blue states alike across the country are enacting red-flag laws, and a recent study showed these laws may be playing a role in preventing mass shootings. As of last month, state judges had signed off on over 2,400 risk protection orders in Florida since March 2018, undoubtedly pre-empting violence.
Far too often, we learn after a tragedy that the perpetrator displayed concerning and often repeated signs of deeply troubling behavior, including clear statements indicating their intent to cause harm to others. In the case of the Parkland shooting suspect, the police received at least 45 calls about him, and a woman close to him even communicated to the F.B.I. that she feared he would become a school shooter, listing specific examples of disturbing conduct — including holding a gun to the head of family members.
Despite these troubling indicators, the suspect was not prevented from owning or obtaining firearms because he had never been charged with a crime. Red-flag laws provide communities with a tool to prevent future tragedies.
I have spoken to families and other community members who have been hurt by senseless acts of violence. As we discuss ways to prevent attacks and keep our schools and communities safe, red-flag laws are consistently mentioned.
Bipartisan consensus is growing that this type of law would be a part of the solution, and we have the blueprint needed to put them in place. It’s time to act.
Marco Rubio is a Republican senator from Florida.