CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A Monongalia County delegate says a “red flag” law limiting the ownership and purchasing of guns would work similarly to the state’s domestic violence protection and mental hygiene orders.
“Protective orders are to protect a person, and we have 100 Americans shot and killed every day in our country and thousands wounded,” Delegate Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, said on MetroNews “Talkline.”
“This is a way to de-escalate an emergency situation (and) give families members and law enforcement a way to intervene.”
Fleischauer and Delegate John Doyle, D-Jefferson, announced Wednesday they are working with West Virginia groups to craft a “red flag” law proposal; such statutes allow people to petition a court to restrict a family member from possessing or purchasing a gun.
The discussions were sparked by mass shootings last weekend in El Paso and Dayton, Ohio; CNN reported Thursday the mother of the El Paso suspect contacted police because of concerns about him owning a firearm. A public safety officer told her the 21-year-old man was allowed to purchase the weapon.
CNN also reported the mother did not identify herself or her son, and police did not ask for additional information.
Fleischauer, who is attending the National Conference of States Legislatures in Nashville with Doyle, said mass shootings can be prevented through legislation.
“I think the focus here needs to be on evidence, and that’s what these extreme risk protective order proceedings require is evidence,” she said. “Even if the mom had identified herself, there would have to be a judicial proceeding, and maybe it could have stopped that massacre.”
Fleischauer explained under the proposal, there would be two judicial hearings with evidence before someone’s firearms were taken or their purchasing power was affected.
“You must have an emergency hearing, and you must have a final hearing. You must attempt notice for the first one and achieve notice for the second one,” she said.
Fleischauer called the proposal a balance between public safety and protecting one’s constitutional right to have a firearm.
“The Second Amendment is not more important than anything else in the world. It’s important. I support the Second Amendment,” she said. “It has to be balanced with other issues, including safety.”
Twenty-six Republican members of the House of Delegates said in a joint statement on Thursday they would not support such proposal.
“Legislators calling for ‘red flag’ laws are preying upon the fear generated by the actions of madmen that would carry out their acts regardless of any laws this State would enact. What is clear to us is the breakdown of the family will not be overcome by well-intentioned but misplaced legislation that does nothing to solve the core issues that lead to these tragedies,” they said.
“The call for ‘red flag’ laws denies the real problem and attacks honest, law-abiding citizens. West Virginia has a large veteran population that cannot be discouraged from seeking help by laws that would disproportionately strip them of the rights they have sacrificed so much to defend. We stand firm in our convictions to defend our constitutional rights and uphold the freedoms of all the people of West Virginia.”
The lawmakers who submitted the statement include Tom Bibby of Berkeley County; Jim Butler of Mason County; Scott Cadel of Mason County; Roy Cooper of Summers County; Mark Dean of Mingo County; Tom Fast of Fayette County; John Paul Hott of Grant County; Gary Howell of Mineral County; Eric Householder of Berkeley County; Joe Jeffries of Putnam County; John Kelley of Wood County; Kayla Kessinger of Fayette County; Larry Kump of Berkeley County; Sharon Malcolm of Kanawha County; John Mandt of Cabell County; Robbie Martin of Upshur County; Patrick Martin of Lewis County; Zack Maynard of Lincoln County; Pat McGeehan of Hancock County; Chris Phillips of Barbour County; Eric Portfield of Mercer County; Brandon Steele of Raleigh County; Amy Summers of Taylor County; Terry Waxman of Harrison County; Marshall Wilson of Berkeley County; and Evan Worrell of Cabell County.
Fleischauer said there has to be bipartisan support for the law to successfully reach the governor’s desk.
“There now appears to be bipartisan support at the national level,” she said. “There’s only one Republican legislator here, and obviously, this whole crisis has come to a head over the last couple of days. We need to have group discussions because you can’t pass anything without 51 (votes) in the House and 19 in the Senate.”
U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said earlier this week he reached an agreement with Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal on a proposal to put before Congress.