States could receive federal money to build out ‘red flag’ gun programs

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Published: Jul. 5, 2022 at 6:29 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 5, 2022 at 8:54 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - States could receive money from the federal government to establish and maintain red flag laws through the new bipartisan gun safety law President Joe Biden signed last month.

Nearly 20 states and the District of Columbia have these measures in place, which allow courts to temporarily take away someone’s guns if they are determined to be a threat to themselves or others.

South Carolina is not among that group, and attempts at the State House to pass such laws have been unsuccessful in the past.

While South Carolina’s most recent two-year legislative session wrapped up in May, with the General Assembly not set to take up most new legislation until the start of 2023, Democratic Senator Darrell Jackson of Richland County is already planning to introduce a red flag bill when the pre-filing period opens later this year.

“Here’s what I said to our colleagues: We will eventually do this,” Jackson said. “The only question is, will we do it soon enough to save even more lives, and in this case, to take advantage of the incentives?”

Jackson hopes the appeal of receiving that money from the federal government will entice some members in the Republican-dominated General Assembly to reconsider red flag legislation.

Research has shown these measures can prevent deaths and reduce suicides, and other conservative states, like Florida and Indiana, have them in place.

When asked if he would want the state legislature to pursue these financial incentives, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster recently said he would need to take a closer look at the new federal law but opposes any legislation that intrudes on the Second Amendment.

“We need to go by the constitution, and I will not support anything that infringes on people’s right to have and bear arms,” McMaster said.

Jackson said a red flag law would not impede on the rights of responsible gun owners in South Carolina.

“I think across the aisle, Democrats and Republicans, we all support that,” he said. “What this does is to protect us from those who are prone to violence and with mental illness.”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham was one of the Republicans who worked on the bipartisan gun law and voted for it when it passed the U.S. Senate last month.

Graham told South Carolinians on a tele-town hall last week that states receiving federal money to build out their red flag programs have to ensure constitutionally required due process is in place.

“We’ve got to do something about keeping guns out of the hands of unstable people. I am a proud gun owner. I own an AR-15,” Graham said. “This bill only applies to people who have been convicted of crimes or who have been adjudicated mentally unstable.”

Graham noted multiple times during the event that the federal law, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, does not establish a nationwide red flag law, nor does it force any state to enact one.

He also said states that do not have red flag laws, like South Carolina, can still receive federal money for crisis intervention and mental health programs.

“The bottom line is, I feel very comfortable that the money is going to go to the intended purpose, or I wouldn’t have voted for it,” Graham said.

But Jackson believes South Carolina should still look at the change in its own law.

“I think the incentives actually make it a no-brainer,” he said.

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