U.S. House lawmakers passed a bill that would implement federal “red flag” laws under mounting pressure to respond to the country’s seemingly never-ending string of mass shootings.
The proposal, sponsored by U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, is called the “Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2022.”
It institutes a federal so-called red flag gun provision that allows a person’s right to possess or purchase a firearm to be temporarily suspended if they are deemed a danger to themselves or others by a court.
A federal court can issue a federal extreme risk protection order at the request of a family or household member or law enforcement officer. It also incentives states to adopt red flag gun laws of their own.
“We cannot be the only nation in the world where our children are torn apart on Tuesday and their deaths are gone from the news cycle by Wednesday,” McBath said during debate.
“Don’t our children have the right to live free from the trauma that only stepping over a friend covered in blood could ever bring?” she asked her colleagues. “How many more parents must receive the phone call that I did, when I was told that my son was murdered?”
McBath recently won her primary race against fellow Democrat U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux after the two were pitted against each other when state lawmakers redrew districts.
The Marietta Democrat has become one of the loudest voices in the debate for stricter gun control after her 17-year-old son Jordan was shot and killed by a stranger in the parking lot of a Florida convenience store.
“We vote to save lives,” McBath said Thursday. “We vote to do what is right. We vote to stop the uniquely American horror that is ripping our families apart.”
The bill passed in a vote 224 to 202, with a majority of Republicans voting against it. GOP lawmakers argued that the bill violates individuals’ Second Amendment rights and ignores the right to due process.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi also took to the podium to speak in support of the proposal.
“We know that those who pose a risk of gun violence show early warning signs,” she said. “… Yet in too many communities across the country, concerned family members, friends and law enforcement have no legal pathway to get deadly weapons out of the hands of these troubled individuals.”
The House passage of McBath’s red flag proposal came on the heels of approving another sweeping gun control measure.
On Wednesday, the Democrat-held chamber passed the “Protecting Our Kids Act,” after hearing gut-wrenching testimony from Americans impacted by mass shootings. The bill passed 223-204, along mostly party lines.
The bill raises the age to purchase a semiautomatic rifle from 18 to 21 years of age. It also creates new federal offenses for trafficking of firearms and bans the sale of large-capacity magazines.
Not long before the vote, House lawmakers heard emotional testimony from a young student who survived the May 24 mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde and from parents of a student who lost their life.
Witnesses also included individuals impacted by the Buffalo supermarket mass shooting just 10 days before.
Miah Cerrillo, a fourth grader at the school in Uvalde, described in a pre-recorded video the gunman shooting her teacher in the head after telling her, “good night.” Cerrillo survived the attack by smearing a classmate’s blood on her and remaining quiet.
Nineteen children and two teachers died in the attack by a lone gunman who brandished two military-style rifles — one manufactured by Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense.
Kimberbly Rubio, mother of 10-year-old Lexi Rubio who was killed in the Uvalde massacre, urged lawmakers to act.
“Somewhere out there, there’s a mom listening to our testimony thinking, ‘I can’t even imagine their pain,’ not knowing that one day, our reality will be hers — unless we act now,” she said.
Dr. Roy Guerrero, a pediatrician in Uvalde, also recounted the horrific scene at Uvalde Memorial Hospital that day, when desperate parents searched for their children and casualties continued to mount.
“My oath as a doctor means that I signed up to save lives,” he told lawmakers. “ I do my job. I guess, it turns out, that I am here to plead — to beg — to please, please do yours.”
But the gun measures face an uphill battle in the U.S. Senate where Democrats hold a slim majority but where some Republican support would be necessary.
NPR reported that Senate negotiators are between parties and the White House to draft their own gun control proposal expected by the end of the week.
This story comes to Reporter/Intown through a reporting partnership with GPB News, a non-profit newsroom covering the state of Georgia.