U.S. House approves McBath ‘red flag’ bill in response to mass shootings

Crosses are surrounded by flowers and other items at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that was created to honor the victims of a mass shooting there. Two teachers and 19 students were killed. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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Crosses are surrounded by flowers and other items at a memorial at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, that was created to honor the victims of a mass shooting there. Two teachers and 19 students were killed. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. House has passed a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Marietta that would create a national “red flag” law to temporarily remove firearms from people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

The legislation is part of a slate of gun-control measures the House passed this week in response to recent mass shootings, including one at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York., that left 10 dead and an attack at a Texas elementary school that killed 19 fourth-graders and two teachers. McBath said Congress needs to act to send a message that its members care about preventing future incidents.

“An entire generation is growing up learning that the adults that they look up to cannot or rather not choose to protect them,” the Democrat said during debate. “And we all agree that this status quo is unacceptable. We all understand that the murder of our children cannot continue. We need policies that will give our law enforcement the tools that they need.”

Her bill includes language from another measure California U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal had proposed to create a federal grant program to incentivize states to create “red flag” laws of their own. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have such laws on the books, but Georgia is among the 31 that do not.

Carbajal represents the area where six students who attend the University of California at Santa Barbara were killed in 2014 by a man whose misogynist rage had been well known. But Carbajal said his passion for the issue was also fueled greatly by the memory of his own sister.

“These red flag laws are also critical to reducing the largest form of gun deaths in our country: suicide by firearm,” he said. “As someone who lost one of my own siblings to suicide by a gun, I personally am proud to stand in this chamber today in her memory, Carmen, to see my bill come to a vote.”

Five Republicans joined Democrats in voting 224-202 to pass the bill, HR 2377, with one Democrat voting “no.” Georgia’s delegation split along party lines with all eight Republicans opposed and all six Democrats in favor.

Republican lawmakers who spoke against the legislation often claimed that “red flag” laws violate due process protections and are unconstitutional, even as Democrats countered that the laws already exist in many states and have held up to legal review.

Ohio U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan said the law would allow a judge to remove firearms from people alleged to be unstable or a threat without allowing them to face their accusers. The hurdles to appeal or recover the guns later are high, he said.

“That is why we are so, so against this measure and why it is so darn dangerous,” Jordan said. “They can say all day long it doesn’t violate due process; it most certainly does.”

Thursday’s vote comes the day after the House passed a separate bill that contained a slate of gun control measures, including raising the minimum age for purchasing a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years old, banning large-capacity magazines, creating new gun storage requirements, further restricting bump stocks that allow guns to be fired rapidly and regulating “ghost guns,” which are untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also said the House will at some point take a vote on whether to reinstate a ban on assault weapons.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of senators led by Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy and Texas Republican John Cornyn is working on a separate proposal that is likely to be much narrower in scope. Including “red flag” language appears to be on the table in the Senate, although discussions are ongoing.

Senators have also discussed expanding background checks, adding money for school safety and implementing a waiting period for 18- to 21-year-olds to buy certain guns.