INSPIRED BY LOCAL NEED, REP. KATKO INTRODUCES BIPARTISAN RED FLAG LEGISLATION TO KEEP COMMUNITIES SAFE

September 10, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. —Together with a bipartisan group of colleagues, U.S. Rep. John Katko (NY-24) today introduced the Protecting our Communities and Rights Act of 2018, legislation aimed at curbing gun violence.   Rep. Katko was joined by Reps. Peterson, Cuellar, Diaz-Balart, David Young, Curtis and Comstock in introducing this bipartisan measure.

Nationwide, some states have taken action to introduce “red flag laws,” which allow law enforcement to temporarily restrict access to firearms if individuals demonstrate “red flags” that they may be a danger to themselves or others.  However, many of these measures, while well intentioned, overstep constitutional boundaries.  Rep. Katko’s measure will empower states to intervene in a constitutional manner and provide real support to keep communities safe.

Rep. Katko was motivated to introduce this legislation following instances detailed by City of Auburn Chief of Police Shawn Butler, in which the Auburn Police Department was unable to legally act to prevent an individual from potentially harming himself or others.

“With gun violence continuing to plague our nation, our constituents have demanded action, and rightfully so," said Congressman Katko.  “In Central New York, our law enforcement face a serious challenge when an individual exhibits warning signs that may escalate into tragedy.  The bipartisan measure I’ve introduced today prioritizes the safety of our communities by giving local law enforcement the tools that they need to protect individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others, while ensuring constitutional due process rights are afforded.”

City of Auburn Chief of Police Shawn Butler said, “I would first like to thank Congressman Katko for listening to the concerns of local law enforcement and understanding there is a loophole in our current system that needs to be closed.  By sponsoring and hopefully passing this common sense legislation, it will give law enforcement another tool to hopefully prevent another senseless tragedy from occurring by giving police an avenue to petition the court for the removal of firearms from those exhibiting ‘red flag’ warning signs of potentially suicidal or other violent behavior often associated with behavioral health issues.  Also, understanding that due process is a crucial component to this legislation ensures that the highest standards of proof are met prior to the removal of any such firearms possessed.  The City of Auburn City Council has already taken the proactive step of enacting Council Resolution #49 of 2018, Supporting the enactment of ‘Red Flag’, ‘Extreme Risk Protection Order’ legislation allowing police authorities to seize firearms from individuals posing a risk imminent harm to themselves or others.”

The Protecting our Communities and Rights Act empowers states to enact meaningful and constitutional mechanisms to protect individuals who may present a danger to themselves or others through the use of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO’s).   The legislation gives priority for existing Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) grants if they enact ERPO legislation that includes the following provisions:

  • Due Process:  State may only deprive a person of a right to possess firearms after a hearing where the person has notice and is given an opportunity to participate.
  • Clear and Convincing Evidence:  Hearing must include a finding of dangerousness by a neutral decision-maker with an evidentiary standard consistent with deprivation of a constitutional right (by clear and convincing evidence). 
  • Ex-Parte Order: Limit any prohibition on an ex parte order to purchasing or receiving a firearm.
  • ERPO Expiration: Provide for a clear expiration of the order no more than one year after the ERPO is issued, and require the same procedure to renew the order as initial issuance. In addition, provides a mechanism to expeditiously return firearms when the order expires or is terminated.

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D, TX-28) said, “To reduce gun violence, we need to focus on addressing the root causes of these incidents without infringing on the constitutional rights of upstanding citizens. That is why I am a cosponsor of this bipartisan piece of legislation, which takes a commonsense approach to keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them. By incentivizing states to implement red flag gun laws through providing resources to our law enforcement, we are working to safeguard our constituents from unnecessary violence, while still respecting the rights of law-abiding Texans and Americans. I would like to thank Rep. Katko for spearheading this bill, and Reps. Peterson, Diaz-Balart, Young, Curtis and Comstock for their support.”

“While I am a strong defender of the Second Amendment, I also strongly believe that we must do more to keep firearms out of the hands of violent individuals and the mentally ill,” said Rep. John Curtis (R, UT-03). “This common-sense bill puts in place a constitutional process, ensuring for due process, to protect our communities from individuals that pose an extreme risk to be a danger to themselves or others from obtaining or possessing a firearm.”

"When we work together to find solutions to gun violence, we are able to get results that make a real difference. Earlier this year we passed The Fix NICS bill to improve the criminal background check system for gun purchases, The STOP School Violence Act to provide more money for school safety and violence prevention, and my Project Safe Neighborhoods legislation which funds programs to reduce crime in our communities. I appreciate the bipartisan work done on the Protecting our Communities and Rights Act to provide law enforcement or family members the option of obtaining a court order to prevent firearm purchases and possession by individuals who pose a significant threat to themselves or others while providing due process protections. Such “red flag” laws have been enacted in several states, from Indiana to Connecticut, and including most recently in Florida," said Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R, VA-10).

Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R, FL-25) said, "I am proud to join my colleagues to introduce this legislation that will play a significant part in addressing senseless and random acts of violence. This bill gives law enforcement and family members with additional resources to keep firearms out of the hands of someone who is a risk to themselves or those around them, while also protecting civil liberties and providing due process. Florida is one of many states that has enacted a 'red flag' law, and provisions in this legislation encourage other states to follow suit. I am grateful to my colleagues for their bipartisan efforts in offering a sensible solution that will keep our homes and our communities safer."

"This bill works to assist States in implementing common sense firearm legislation to protect citizens from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others while protecting the rights of lawful gun owners,” Rep. Collin Peterson (D, MN-7) said. “I have been saying for a long time that any legislation like this must be done on a State-by-State basis."

In the coming weeks, Rep. Katko will join Chief Butler and other local leaders to highlight the impact of this legislation for Central New York.

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