Killion introduces ‘red flag’ gun bill

Saying Pennsylvania must do more to end gun violence, state Sen. Tom Killion, R-9, has introduced legislation that would temporarily remove guns from individuals who are a danger to themselves or others.

Killion officially introduced his red flag legislation, Senate Bill 90, Feb. 14, on the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 students and staff members dead.  The perpetrator had demonstrated a pattern of disturbing behavior prior to the shooting, according to reports.

“Our hearts break daily for the families who have lost loved ones to gun violence,” said Killion in a press release. “With 100 gun deaths occurring every day in this country, it has become a national epidemic. We must do more to keep guns out of the hands of disturbed and dangerous people,” he added.

Referred to as red flag or extreme risk protection order laws, Killion’s legislation is similar to laws that have passed in thirteen other states. The goal of these laws is to help prevent gun suicides and mass shootings.

Modeled after a bill previously proposed by fellow Republican state Rep. Todd Stephens, the legislation would allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals determined to be dangerous by a court.

Under the legislation, law enforcement, family members or household members could petition county common pleas courts to issue an order temporarily prohibiting disturbed individuals from possessing a firearm. A judge would then weigh the evidence presented at a hearing where the individual in question is able to be present.

If a judge orders the relinquishment of firearms, the guns can be returned to the individual after the original court order expires or after a new date is established at a subsequent hearing.

Killion noted that according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 100 people die every day from gun violence in the United States, nearly two-thirds of whom are gun suicides. In Pennsylvania, there are 1,500 firearm-related deaths each year, with 62 percent of them being suicides.

Killion pointed out that other states have had success with their red flag laws, including neighboring Maryland.

Last month, Maryland officials reported that 148 people determined to be a danger to themselves or others were ordered to relinquish firearms during the first three months of their new red flag law. Four of these individuals were deemed significant threats to Maryland schools.

Killion also drew attention to a psychiatric study that showed red flag laws reduced gun suicides by over 10 percent in Connecticut and by 7.5 percent in Indiana.

“Red flag laws are clearly preventing gun tragedies in other states,” said Killion. “This law will absolutely save lives in Pennsylvania,” he added.

State gun safety groups praised Killion’s red flag legislation.

“CeaseFirePA thanks Senator Killion for again taking the lead to put forth a bill to save lives in Pennsylvania, a bill that is evidence-based, with solid data to support it.  Extreme risk protection orders create a process by which family members and law enforcement can use the judicial process to seek to temporarily bar access to firearms by a loved one who is in crisis and at risk of harming himself or others. We are committed to working with Senator Killion to build broad bipartisan support for this bill,” said Shira Goodman, executive director of CeaseFirePA.

Marybeth Christiansen, volunteer state legislative lead with the Pennsylvania chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America said, “We appreciate Senator Killion’s leadership on introducing this life-saving extreme risk protection order legislation.  As we approach the one-year mark of the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School this week, we urge the General Assembly to follow Florida’s lead and quickly pass this bill.  We know this legislation will save lives.”

“Delco United for Sensible Gun Policy is proud to support Senator Killion in his efforts to have an extreme risk protection order bill signed into law in Pennsylvania.  This lifesaving legislation will work to cut down on the number of suicides and all-too-common incidents of preventable gun violence in our communities,” said Jessica Frankl, co-chair of Delaware County United for Sensible Gun Policy.

Ann Colby-Cummings, chairperson of GunSenseUs said, “Passing this legislation will provide Pennsylvania families and law enforcement with a proven tool to address possible gun violence before it occurs. How many times have people reported they knew a person who owned firearms was troubled, but were unable to get help to address it? This tool will provide that help.”

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