Democrats prime statehouses to rewrite ‘red flag’ gun laws

Minnesota state Rep. Kelly Moller, a Democrat, is planning to schedule a hearing early in the session on her red flag bill, paired with measures to require stricter storage protocols, mandatory background checks and reporting stolen firearms. A version of the red flag bill would allow family members to pursue court orders — an option many states don’t offer.

“Whenever we talk about rising crime we also have to talk about gun violence prevention,” Moller said in an interview. “Hearing that guns are a leading cause of death in children, it’s horrifying to talk about because it’s completely preventable.”

In Michigan, Democrats clinched majorities in both chambers in the midterms, handing the party a trifecta for the first time in 40 years. But the victories were narrow enough that Democrats will still need to get Republican support for any gun legislation, said Democratic Sen. Rosemary Bayer, who is leading the effort.

“We are really going to have to be cautious and continue to work together and expand our presence and our base,” Bayer said. “We’re not going to scare the crap out of everybody in the first three months of this plan. We’re going to do this sensibly.”

In Illinois, Morgan’s bill would give the state police more power to seize illegal guns flowing from other places, a nagging problem in the state. The Federal Safer Communities Act, the bipartisan measure Biden signed in July after the Highland Park shooting, made interstate gun-trafficking a federal crime rather than subject to a standard penalty or fine.

Illinois lawmakers will also file a separate civil liability bill “to ensure accountability for gun manufacturers and retailers.”

There are elements of the bills that also address red flag laws, including extending the firearm restraining order from the current six months to up to one year. That would put Illinois in line with national standards. The legislation also expands the role of prosecutors to be able to assist in the filing of a Firearm Restraining Order, Morgan said.

“The community, regardless of your political persuasion, thinks it’s time for common-sense gun reforms,” said Morgan, who has sought counseling after the Highland Park shooting.

The legislation isn’t the first time Illinois lawmakers have considered banning assault weapons. Previous efforts have been stymied by Republicans as well as Democrats from more conservative parts of the state.

But Morgan hopes this time is different.

“Times change, and I think there’s a majority support for these ideas now,” he said. “This is a comprehensive problem that requires a comprehensive effort to address it.”

Liz Crampton reported from Vermont. Shia Kapos reported from Illinois.