State Sen. Moves To Block Red-Flag Gun Laws Before They Start

Wednesday, September 4th 2019, 9:24 am
By: Grant Hermes

While much of the national conversation in the aftermath of the deadly mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and Odessa, Texas has focused on ways to strengthen gun laws or prevent firearms from falling into the wrong hands, conservative Senator Nathan Dahm is moving to block any so-called red flag laws passed by Congress.

The Broken Arrow Republican filed the bill only titled SB1081 as an emergency filing on Tuesday.

Red flag laws are generally meant to prevent people with mental illness or extensive criminal backgrounds, like repeat domestic violence offenders, from buying guns under the order of a judge.

In an announcement Dahm said the bill was meant to protect gun owners in Oklahoma.

“In America, we learn from an early age that we are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a shadow of a doubt. We have due process protections enshrined in our Constitution. Red flag laws violate all these principles, violate numerous constitutionally protected rights, and set a dangerous precedent,” Dahm said in his announcement. “In Oklahoma, we already have legal processes for those who are adjudicated as a threat to themselves or others. We don't need new laws that will further infringe on rights. We should be about protecting rights."

Dahm has been a frequent and outspoken supporter of gun rights and curtailing the efforts to tighten the state’s gun laws including support for Oklahoma’s newly passed permitless carry law. That law is currently being challenged by a petition which would put the law to a statewide vote in 2020.

Nationwide, 17 states have red flag laws in place. Former Governor Mary Fallin signaled she was interested in looking into them. A law did not get passed before she left office. Representative Jason Dunnignton (D-OKC) who filed a red flag law bill last year criticized Dahm’s bill on Twitter.

“Sen. Dahm’s new bill which is nothing more than a publicity stunt to curry favor with fringe gun enthusiasts. Sad. Oklahoman’s are tired of elected officials lack of action on #CommonSenseGunLaws,” Dunnington wrote.

There has not been any recent polling done on how Oklahomans feel about expanding gun laws, but polling in the last presidential election showed strong support for background checks for all gun purchases. Oklahoma’s gun laws, and the lawmakers who write them, frequently receive glowing reviews from pro-gun groups like the National Rifle Association which opposes gun laws restricting ownership.

Last month Dunnington said he plans on reintroducing his failed red-flag law bill in the 2020 session setting up an ideological battle as lawmakers head into election year.

“It's a removal for just seven days if a judge deems it should be done longer that can take place,” Dunnignton said on News9/Newson6’s Your Vote Counts in early August. “These are common sense things that we should do to protect our society. Are they going to stop all mass shootings? Of course they won't, but why wouldn't we take steps in the right direction.”

Gov. Kevin Stitt said earlier this summer he was not looking into calling for a red flag law in Oklahoma, instead waiting on Congress to act. In Congress, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week he's waiting on the White House for direction.

President Donald Trump called for red flags laws after the shootings in Dayton and El Paso and also supported background checks on Twitter.

“Mental illness and hatred pull the trigger. Not the gun,” Mr. Trump said in an address in to the nation after the mass shootings which left dozens dead or injured. Later, he walked back his support after conversation with Wayne LaPierre, the head of the NRA meaning the future of any federal law is unclear. The President has also called for expanded background checks after mass shootings but later vetoed bills aimed at doing so passed by House Democrats.

In Oklahoma, if Dahm’s bill should pass there are already questions about its constitutionality.

“We have to deal with this time and time again in Oklahoma,” House Minority Leader Emily Virgin (D-Norman) told The Tulsa World over the holiday weekend. “We see state legislators trying to overrule the federal government. That is just not how the Constitution works.”

The bill will be able to be heard in the legislative session starting in February. 

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