Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Republicans Accuse Justice Department of Misusing Bipartisan Gun Safety Law to Unlawfully Finance Red Flag Laws

Reuters / Kevin Lamarque
GOP representatives and advocates for gun rights are arguing that the Biden government has illegitimately issued federal grants to states that didn't meet eligibility criteria under a program aiming to foster so-called "red flag" laws.

In 2022, a law was signed by President Biden and passed by Congress called the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, as a response to mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, which resulted in many casualties. This legislation encourages states to enact extreme risk protection or "red flag" laws, enabling both the public and law enforcement to seek court orders temporarily prohibiting firearm access for individuals who may pose a threat. Following Second Amendment concerns raised by gun rights supporters, Congress incorporated stipulations requiring states seeking federal grants to implement "red flag" laws to include certain due process safeguards.

However, Sen. Roger Marshall of Kansas and Rep. Alex Mooney of West Virginia argue in a letter addressed to Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Justice Department has improperly given federal money to states not fulfilling the minimum due process requirements. The letter, signed by seven GOP senators and 26 House legislators, alleges that the Biden administration bypassed Congressional intent and questions why at least eight states and territories without any "red flag" laws have received federal grants under the DOJ program.

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The letter also accuses the Justice Department of misusing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to illegally finance ineligible "red flag" laws and to pressure states favoring gun rights into endorsing gun seizure laws. It argues that no states have modified their statutes to adhere to the "due process" criteria laid down by the 117th Congress since the Act was passed. The letter points out that the federal government should not fund state-level gun seizure programs that infringe on gun owners' due process rights.

Citing a Myth vs. Fact sheet from Senator John Cornyn's office, the GOP representatives argue that Congress was explicit in that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act wasn't meant to force or incentivize states into adopting "red flag" laws. The Act also disallows the use of federal funding to lobby state legislatures to pass any laws.

The GOP representatives express concern that several states and territories without "red flag" laws have been given funds for the creation and implementation of such programs. They assert that the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act grant program is being used by the federal government to persuade states into implementing gun seizure laws, which they term as a "federal bribery program". They demand an explanation from the DOJ regarding its grants' lawful purpose to states without "red flag" laws.

Marshall told Fox News that the DOJ's efforts to disarm law-abiding gun owners were unconstitutional. He called for the Biden administration to cease this initiative and provide answers regarding the funds it has allegedly distributed unlawfully. Similarly, Mooney described the DOJ's actions as an attempt to bribe and force states into passing gun seizure laws.

Gun Owners of America (GOA), a group advocating for Second Amendment rights, claims to have monitored the grant program and was first to inform Congress about state recipients not meeting the funding eligibility terms laid out by the law.

Gun Owners of America

Aidan Johnston, federal affairs director at GOA, issued a statement expressing concerns about the situation. He mentioned that despite assurances that the money wouldn't coerce states into passing "red-flag" laws, the DOJ has still granted anti-gun bureaucrats in several pro-gun states funding to enforce gun seizure programs. None of the states with "red flag" laws met the due process requirements set by the federal legislation.

The DOJ announced in February that it would allocate $231 million to states for crisis intervention, including efforts to fortify "red flag" programs and initiatives aimed at reducing gun violence. The funding was sourced from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.

At the time, Garland stated that the grants would support crisis intervention programs known to save lives and protect communities across the country from needless gun violence. President Biden affirmed his support for "red flag" laws, saying they could only save lives if community members effectively use this intervention. The funding provides states with the means to educate the public about extreme risk protection orders and to train law enforcement and other officials on this intervention.

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