The House is staying busy now that the August recess (such as it was) is over. One of the latest items of business was having the House Judiciary Committee approve that new red flag law everyone has been talking about. But they ran into a bit of a snag when Republicans offered an amendment that would have allowed the addition of anyone whose name appears in a law enforcement gang database to the list. Even if that might sound like common sense to you, the Democrats on the committee found reasons to object and defeated the amendment. (Washington Examiner)
House Democrats this week advanced a new measure to encourage states to pass “red flag” laws, known as extreme risk protection orders, that authorize removing guns and ammunition from dangerous individuals.
Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee amended the measure during a Wednesday mark-up to authorize the federal government to issue extreme risk protection orders in some instances, but they rejected an amendment that would have red-flagged anyone who law enforcement lists as a gang member.
“The majority of violent crime, including gun violence, in the United States is linked to gangs,” Rep. Ken Buck, a Colorado Republican who sponsored the amendment, said Wednesday. “My amendment is quite simple. It would allow the issuance of a red flag order against anyone whose name appears in a gang database if there was probable cause to include that individual in the database.”
The reason the Democrats gave for objecting to this was that the lists in those gang databases have been found to be inaccurate at times. On the surface, there is a valid complaint about these databases. The one used in Chicago, for example, has been widely criticized for having errors of all sorts. But Republican Congressman Ken Buck, the amendment’s author, pointed out that being in one of those databases wouldn’t automatically trigger the red flag law. It would only apply if there was probable cause.
Republicans also pointed out some of the hypocrisy on display. You may recall that many of these same Democrats held a sit-in to shut down Congress because the GOP didn’t want to pass a “no-fly, no buy” law that would forbid gun ownership for anyone on the terrorist no-fly list. The reason the GOP gave at the time? There were errors in that list as well.
The Democrats countered by saying they would like to add “individuals affiliated with white nationalism.” How precisely are you going to define who is affiliated with “white nationalism?” People show up on gang databases because they commit gang-related crimes. You can be accused of being affiliated with “white nationalism” for writing an op-ed.
Let’s keep in mind the fact that all of this activity is little more than political posturing. Congress isn’t considering a national red-flag law. Even if this measure makes it into law, all it does is allow and encourage the states to pass their own red flag laws. Whether the states choose to do so and how they structure such laws is still entirely up to them.
Further, the gang database amendment is kind of pointless as well. Most of the people who wind up on those lists (not counting those incorrectly added) are there because they’ve already committed crimes. They’re already not supposed to be able to purchase or possess firearms. The problem is they somehow manage to ignore laws like that and carry weapons anyway. (Yes. Shocking, I know.)
Here’s the part of the story that nobody was saying out loud on the House Judiciary Committee, however. Democrats are reluctant to do anything that might be seen as taking harsh action against gang members. The reason is that many in their caucus are still fighting for criminal justice reform, bemoaning the crime bill from the nineties and claiming racism. Many, though not all urban gangs are primarily composed of minorities, so liberals are reluctant to touch the subject even though the vast majority of violent crime in the country is related to gang activity.
But even that is rather weak tea. There are white gangs running meth operations in the south and biker gangs all over the country with few or no minorities. They could have been added as well. That might have pleased the Democrats.
As I said, this entire exercise is a dog and pony show designed to get representatives on the record as to how they voted regarding red flag laws. There’s an election next year, after all.