It might seem cynical to put the issue of gun safety in the context of election-year politics.
But here we are.
There are at least two ideas floating around Congress that could make “red flag” laws a reality in all 50 states. These laws allow authorities to temporarily take guns away from a person who has shown a pattern of violence or the threat of violence. In those cases, court-approved restraining orders would let relatives or law enforcement authorities ask a court to bar a dangerous person from having guns. Petitioners could seek an emergency order, then a permanent one.
Florida lawmakers were forced to take the lead, passing a red flag law soon after Nikolas Cruz killed 17 people and injured 17 others in the Feb. 14 gun massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. State legislators and Gov. Rick Scott, otherwise loathe to impose restrictions on gun access, had little choice. Loud, angry and determined students from Parkland and beyond showed up for a showdown in Tallahassee during the legislative session. The students demanded that lawmakers take action, and elected officials complied.
Now, Congress should do the same.
Florida lawmakers, again, are in the lead. A bipartisan bill pushed by Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, along with Sen. Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island, would give states a variety of financial incentives to tailor their own policies to prevent people deemed a threat from possessing firearms.
In the U.S. House, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., and Rep. Susan Brooks, R-Ind., are behind legislation that would also provide federal grants to train police to deal with situations in which they encounter mentally ill people who have guns.
The Nelson-Rubio proposal would require court action before weapons are seized. Deutch and Brooks would allow law enforcement to seize the weapons first and go to court within 21 days. Depending on the urgency of a fraught situation, we think immediacy is important. In either case, there must be probable cause.
However, Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., are pushing the strongest legislation yet. It would make the red flag policies federal mandates in every state.
We ask: What is Congress waiting for?
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE MIAMI HERALD