BY EVA MCKEND | KENTUCKY
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Among Kentucky’s congressional delegation, Republican Thomas Massie seems to stand alone in his vocal opposition to red flag laws.
Since the two mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas, he’s taken to Twitter and local radio to blast the laws aimed to give police and citizens the ability to ask the court to remove firearms from individuals that show clear signs they could pose a danger to themselves or others.
On Thursday he tweeted, “Red flag laws don’t require a diagnosis or professional opinion,” adding “Only 1 of 17 red flag laws on books mentions mental illness,” and “Not all mental illness should disqualify you from owning a gun.”
Republicans in Congress face a tough road ahead politically when it comes to the renewed debate over gun use in America.
The President has said he supports red flag laws and according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut are working to incentivize states to expand these laws.
The rest of Kentucky’s delegation seems to be figuring out how to walk a tightrope, closely monitoring where Trump ultimately comes down on this issue as the president has reversed initial sentiments on several debates in the past. All of the Republican members in the delegation have routinely received endorsements, related campaign contributions or high ratings from the National Rifle Association, who oppose red flag laws.
A spokesperson for Republican Rep. James Comer says he has not yet taken a public position on the matter.
Congressional staffer Stephanie Penn pointed to McConnell’s statements earlier this month on a Louisville radio show when asked about the issue. McConnell revisited his familiar line that it’s time for Congress “to make a law, not a point” and touted the Safe Schools Act and the Trump administration’s move to ban bump stocks as evidence of some commitment to addressing guns but did not weigh in specifically on red flag laws.
A spokesperson for Republican Rep. Brett Guthrie says he stands ready to work with President Trump and Senator McConnell on bipartisan legislation but wouldn’t answer directly if Guthrie supported red flag laws either.
Sergio Gor, a spokesperson for Sen. Rand Paul, pointed to comments Paul made earlier this week where Paul seemed open to red flag laws. “I’m not opposed to sort of an emergency order for 48 hours and then you get a hearing in a court where you get full due-process protections,” he told the Associated Press, a noticeable distinction from Massie. The two are libertarians who often agree on policy.
The lone Democrat in the delegation, Rep. John Yarmuth, offered the most robust response of the group.
“Red flag laws can be an important component of protecting Americans from our national plague of gun violence. However, when implemented alone, they end up merely sidestepping the issue instead of addressing it,” he said.
“Without also closing the gun show and online sales loopholes, people wishing to inflict harm on innocents will continue to have easy, legal access to weapons of war regardless of whether red flags have been raised or not. If Mitch McConnell and the president want to address this emergency and save lives, the House has already passed a comprehensive, common sense, bipartisan, gun violence protection package that is waiting for them to come back to Washington and act. Sudden talk from Republicans about red flag laws isn’t going to save anybody’s life. The American people have had enough talk. We need action, and we need it urgently,” he added.
Republicans, Rep. Andy Barr and Rep. Hal Rogers, nor members of their staffs, could be reached for comment.