We need the Justice Department to use its power of the purse and offer incentives for local, county and state agencies to abide by their state’s red flag laws and, just as importantly, disincentives when they don’t.
Following last year’s mass shooting at Club Q, the LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, some state lawmakers raised questions about law enforcement leaders who were unsupportive of the state’s red flag provisions. After Colorado passed its red flag law in 2019, Michael Allen, the district attorney in nearby El Paso County, derided it as “unconstitutional,” tweeting that it was nothing “more than a way to justify seizing people’s firearms under the color of law.” He described the law as “a poor excuse to take people’s guns” and said it’s “not designed in any way to address real concrete mental health concerns.”
We’ve heard similar arguments from the sheriff in El Paso County and the sheriff in Lea County, New Mexico; and even a sheriff’s association in Minnesota.
But their opposition is unwarranted. Red flag laws save lives. Take it from Douglas County, Colorado, Sheriff Tony Spurlock, who, according to Pew Reports, has taken “political heat from gun rights advocates who question the law’s due process protections.” But Spurlock, whom Pew describes as “an avid Second Amendment supporter” finds it significant that each of the four people who were subject of red flag petitions in his jurisdiction is still alive. “It’s our responsibility to protect our citizens from harm,” he said. “We have a tool that is very valuable and will make a difference in the community.”
The Justice Department offers millions of dollars in grants each year to law enforcement agencies. To increase compliance with red flag laws, it should prioritize grant awards to those departments that comply with their state’s red flag laws and put those that don’t at the bottom of its pile.
The Justice Department should also direct the FBI to reject applications to attend the prestigious FBI National Academy from law enforcement executives who don’t demonstrate support for utilizing their state’s red flag provisions. There are also other leadership training opportunities beyond the National Academy, that the Justice Department and the FBI could deny to department leaders who refuse to take this commonsense approach to make their communities safer.
— Frank Figliuzzi in This is how Biden should respond to sheriffs who won’t enforce gun laws