Steve Scott, Sen. Richard Blumenthal

WCBS 880

Sen. Blumenthal: Proposed Law Would Let Courts Keep Guns Away From Dangerous People

March 08, 2018 - 4:22 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- Two U.S. senators, Richard Blumenthal (D-Connecticut) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) have proposed legislation allowing federal courts to keep guns away from those who show warning signs of violence.

The bill is the latest response to the massacre at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida last month, which left 17 people dead.

On Thursday, Blumenthal explained to WCBS 880’s Steve Scott what the proposal entailed.

“This proposal, which is potentially a real bipartisan breakthrough, would enable relatives, family or law enforcement to go to a federal judge and ask for an order that would prevent people who are dangerous to themselves or others from buying guns or having guns,” he said.

Blumenthal said there were plenty of warnings ahead of time with Florida gunman Nikolas Cruz, and also with Adam Lanza, the gunman who shot and killed 20 children and six educators at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut in December 2012.

Blumenthal said in those cases and others, there was ample evidence “that somebody should not only see something and say something, but do something. And this legislation would enable federal authorities to do something.”

Graham said at a news conference Thursday that the government already encourages people who see something suspicious to “say something,” but he said the government also has a responsibility to “do something” in the interest of preventing violence.

Blumenthal said the bipartisan support gives the bill a good chance of passing, along with other factors.

“Because it is bipartisan, and because it presses a real need, and because the evidence in Connecticut and the four other state that have them shows that it can save lives, I think it has a real chance,” Blumenthal said. “We need to be mindful that the NRA and the gun lobby still have a vise-like grip on Congress, which is abhorrent. But this legislation makes real sense for people who care about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

Blumenthal noted that the legislation provides “more than ample due process,” allowing anyone whose guns are taken away to go before a judge and challenge the order.

“It is temporary in nature, and it is based on real evidence with a high standard – clear and convincing evidence – that there is a real and imminent threat of danger,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said the bill was introduced Thursday, and was modeled after state “red flag” laws that allow guns to be taken from people who are deemed to pose an imminent threat to themselves or others. Connecticut is among the states with such a law.

“This one is different, in so far as it gives federal judges and magistrates the authority to prevent dangerous people from having or buying guns, but we’re open to creating incentives for states to have their own laws, just as Connecticut does,” Blumenthal said. “And by the way in Connecticut, lives have been saved when 100 to 150 people have had guns removed, but also have been given the opportunity for mental health care. More than half the people in these cases have received such care.”

Graham said at the news conference that the federal bill would also clear up gaps in state laws.