Knoxville lawmaker says ‘red flag’ bill wouldn’t violate Second Amendment

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Rep. Gloria Johnson said her “red flag” law bill has been misunderstood.

According to House Bill 1873 “any family member, household member, intimate partner, or law enforcement officer who has a reasonable belief that a person poses an imminent risk of harm to the person or others — if allowed to purchase or possess a firearm — may seek relief” by filing a sworn petition for an emergency protection order against the person in question.

The bill states that once an emergency order of protection is filed, the court could immediately issue an ex parte protection order, if “good cause is shown.”

An ex parte would immediately prohibit the person in question from purchasing or possessing any firearm while the order is in effect.

The legislation describes a “good cause” as an immediate and present risk of harm to the person or others if they were to own or possess a gun.

Johnson used suicide prevention as an example of how the bill could help families keep their loved ones safe.

“It’s kind of why we call the bill ‘families know first,’ because those closest to you know when you might be in danger,” Johnson said.

If a family member knew one of their loved ones was in crisis, owned guns or planned to buy one, and thought they would be a danger to themselves or others, that family could file the emergency order of protection and prevent the person from buying or possessing a gun for a limited period of time.

Johnson said that in a similar instance, the family would have to go through a long process to deem their loved one mentally ill, at which point that person would never be able to own a gun.

Several Republican lawmakers don’t believe the “red flag” bill would make it to the House or Senate floor, because they believe it would violate the Second Amendment.

Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) said the bill proposes that someone’s firearms would be immediately seized with no opinion from a judge for at least 30 days.

Bell said the bill doesn’t allow someone to be innocent until proven guilty.

“This leaves that decision in the hands of family members, friends, or law enforcement, and sometimes they may not have the best judgment of what’s going on,” Bell said.

According to the bill, if an ex parte order of protection is approved at the time of filing, the person would need to surrender their firearms within 48 hours of the issuance of the order.

A hearing shall then be held within 30 days of the ex parte, at which point the judge could terminate the order or issue an emergency order of protection lasting up to a year.

Johnson said that the person wouldn’t need to wait the initial 30 days to prove they are not a risk to themselves or others.

She also said that if the judge ordered the full emergency order of protection, the person wouldn’t need to wait an entire year before requesting permission to buy or possess firearms.

Johnson said that several people believed anyone could file for an emergency order of protection, such as a jealous ex-partner or malicious family member — she said that is inaccurate.

Johnson said there would be repercussions if someone filed an emergency order of protection for malicious reasons.

However, that is not listed in the bill language at this time.

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