Pennsylvania House Judiciary Chairman Won't Consider Red Flag Bill

Gun control proposals go through cycles, kind of like fashion. Decades ago, it was all about banning handguns. Then it was assault weapons (that one’s come back in fashion…it’s like my seven-year-old calling something “fly”). Right now, the big rage in gun-grabber circles is red flag laws. The idea sounds good, especially when you don’t understand the laws already on the books. I mean, taking guns from potential mass murderers sounds pretty good.


But we don’t need to do that. We have other laws on the books that can stop mass shootings. We’ve done it.

In Pennsylvania, a state I’ve argued is becoming an important battleground for gun rights, a number of gun control bills have been presented. However, at least one won’t get very far. That would be their red flag bill.

A state House panel advanced mandatory minimum sentences for gun criminals, preemption legislation of local firearms laws, and a slate of other bills Tuesday aimed at deterring gun crime.

The votes by the House Judiciary Committee marked the first legislative action on firearms after a summer dominated by mass shootings, including two in one August weekend that left 29 people dead.

The day’s agenda drew criticisms from Gov. Tom Wolf’s administration, as well as Democratic members of the General Assembly, who were frustrated by a lack of action on measures favored by gun-violence reduction advocates.

That includes consideration of an extreme risk protection proposal sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, which allows for the court-ordered temporary seizure of a person’s firearms.

“We will not be considering red flag in the House Judiciary Committee so long as Chairman Kauffman is chairman,” Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin, said, referring to himself in the third person.

I’m not a big fan of talking in the third person like that, but I am a big fan of Kaufman keeping red flag laws in check.

Look, the idea sounds nice. It really does. But a potential murderer–or even someone who is suicidal–who is merely disarmed is someone who is still free to use other weapons. You’ve kicked the can down the road and that’s about it.


Now, will mandatory minimums work? Who knows. I tend to dislike pretending a crime is somehow worse because of the weapon being used, but Kaufman argues, “If the deterrent doesn’t work, the bars will keep [gun criminals] out of our hair.” That’s a fair point. Plus, tougher sentencing isn’t likely to encourage crime, that’s for sure.

But the big story is the red flag bill. If Kaufman keeps to that vow, then Pennsylvanians can rest a bit easier knowing that an offhand comment won’t lead to an excitable family member or coworker reporting them to the authorities. That’s a huge win for the state and for gun rights. It’s a shame that it is, though. This should be a big old nothing, but it’s not.

It’s also unfortunate that this might be the big win for Pennsylvania for a little while as the state is also considering a number of other gun control measures.

Still, take the wins where you can find them. They’re not guaranteed.

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