The sponsor of a “red flag” bill recently filed in Mississippi says his bill “has no chance” of becoming law, but many gun owners and Second Amendment supporters in the state aren’t taking any chances and are vocally objecting to the proposal.
SB 2055 would allow for a family member or law enforcement to file a request for an extreme risk protection order, and would require that law enforcement seize any firearms once an ex parte hearing has taken place. Two weeks after that order has been granted, the individual subject to the red flag order finally gets their day in court, and the individuals or law enforcement agency seeking the order must show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the individual poses a “significant danger” to themselves or others by possessing firearms. The order, if granted, would last six months, but could be renewed every six months thereafter.
State Senator Robert Jackson, who filed the measure, says he’s been told by the chairman of the committee that will hear the bill that the legislation has no chance, and many Republican lawmakers are already speaking out in opposition.
Shortly after SB-2055 was introduced, Dist. 37 Sen. Melanie Sojourner, R-Natchez, posted her opposition to the bill on social media.
“Thank you to everyone who has reached out regarding the Democrat-authored Red Flag Law bill that has been introduced in the MS Senate,” Sojourner wrote in a social media post on Jan. 20. “My thoughts… ‘From my cold dead hands!’ Not today. Not a chance. This bill will not pass in Mississippi. Mississippi is NOT Virginia. Not today. However, it is up to us to make sure it doesn’t become Virginia anytime in the near future.”
One Democrat who supports the idea, at least in theory, claims the bill could be viewed as a mental health measure.
Mississippi District 94 Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Natchez, said SB-2055 could be viewed as a mental health bill.
“You can look at it as a gun control measure, but it is sort of a short cut to addressing some mental health issues,” Johnson said, adding he has not yet seen the bill. “It would seem to me that it would identify people who clearly have some mental health issues if their family members think you should be alarmed about what they are doing with guns.”
This bill has nothing to do with mental health. The subject of the order doesn’t receive any mental health treatment, or even a screening by a mental health professional. The words “mental health” only appears once in the legislation; a mandate that the state’s Department of Mental Health develop a one page affidavit form that applicants would fill out as part of their red flag request.
The claim by supporters of red flag legislation that it’s a mental health measure is a common one, but in truth these bills are pure gun control measures, plain and simple. They may be narrowly structured to remove the rights of individual gun owners, instead of banning firearms for an entire class of people, but that doesn’t make them mental health bills.
Mississippi gun owners understand the distinction, as Sen. Sojourner told the Natchez Democrat newspaper.
“I don’t support greater restrictions on the second amendment,” Sojourner said. “I think constantly the mental health discussion is on the table. What needs to be done there and what should be done there are discussions that will come forward that we will have but just to say that we are going to fix all of the mass crimes in this country and we are going to restrict the second amendment, I think is silly and a false premise.”
The proposed bill has already resulted in at least one county in the state declaring itself a “safe haven” for the Second Amendment. Commissioners in DeSoto County recently approved a resolution after hearing from residents and at least one state representative.
Mississippi Rep. Dana Criswell, who presented a petition to the Desoto County Board of Supervisors asking for a vote on the resolution, said safe haven essentially means the same as sanctuary.
Criswell said several constituents came to him expressing concern after some counties in Virginia approved Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in response to gun control measures in that state that some gun-rights advocates feel are unconstitutional.
He said Mississippi’s legislature is not considering similar gun-control measures, but that residents wanted to get ahead of the issue.
“We just want to draw a line in the sand and say we’re never going to enforce something like this,” Criswell said.
Criswell also said that we may soon see a similar effort in Alcorn County, and some efforts are underway in cities. He said he has put forth legislation that would apply statewide.
The red flag bill may not be going anywhere in Mississippi, but by the looks of things, the Second Amendment Sanctuary movement is taking off thanks to the efforts of pro-gun control legislators.