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McKinley supports ‘red flag’ gun laws

U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley

WHEELING — U.S. Rep. David B. McKinley said he favors “red flag” laws as a means of taking guns out of the hands of potentially violent people, so long as they have legal recourse.

Red flag laws permit law enforcement, or even family members, to petition a court to keep firearms out of the hands of a family member who may present a danger to themselves or others.

President Donald Trump is pushing red flag laws as a possible solution to gun violence following the most recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio earlier this month.

McKinley, R-W.Va., is concerned any legislation considered could be muddied by political motives as the 2020 election year approaches, but he also believes if the intent of the bill holds it could be a valuable tool in curbing gun violence.

What the bill must contain, however, are provisions allowing the gun owner to defend themselves in court as being competent to own weapons, according to McKinley. He also thinks the gun owner should have the right to petition the court after a specified time to have their rights restored if they can prove they have been rehabilitated, and no longer pose a threat.

“It has to go through so that they can represent themselves in court and prove they are not a threat to themselves — and not be subject to someone’s opinion,” he said. “If we use the legal system to do this, I think it can work. But unfortunately, without that red flag, there is no way to prevent someone from having a gun.”

McKinley said he is thankful Trump also has “reinforced the importance of mental illness” in the gun issue.

“We know mental health is huge in this,” McKinley said. “We know that people can buy a gun, then illegally distribute the gun someplace else.

“We have to be very careful with how we move with it. But I think the red flag thing– there’s a good chance we will pick that up and do something with it. It’s not a silver bullet, but it’s a move in the right direction. … Gun owners should have the right of having a doctor say they are OK. They have to have their rights.”

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Ohio, said solutions to gun violence are needed, but he stopped short of endorsing red flag laws.

“My heart goes out to all victims of violence, including gun violence,” Johnson said. “But, we have to be careful that we don’t violate the rights of law abiding citizens in trying to address it.

“I’m all for working with anyone — Republican or Democrat — to look for solutions that work. But we can’t simply ‘do something’ just for the sake of ‘doing something’ just to make ourselves feel better while failing to address the root causes of violence in America,” he said.

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