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Oklahoma just became the first state to pass an “anti-red flag” bill, bucking the national trend that gives police emergency powers to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who might hurt themselves or others.
On Tuesday, Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed Senate Bill 1081, which prohibits counties or cities in Oklahoma from passing local “red flag” ordinances. The legislation sailed through the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday with an 8-2 vote and was the last piece of legislation that lawmakers voted on before they adjourned.
Critics of Senate Bill 1081 have said that GOP legislators are catering to “gun extremists” at a time when the risk of gun violence, like domestic violence or gun suicide, is especially high due to the national anxiety around the pandemic.
"But rather than take steps to meet these risks, lawmakers quietly passed a policy intended to score points with extremists opposed to life-saving extreme risk laws,” Kay Malan, a volunteer with Oklahoma’s chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told The Oklahoman.
Nineteen states currently have a red flag law on the books, and 14 of those were passed just in the last two years. The trend was galvanized by the Parkland school shooting in February 2018 that left 17 dead.
The shooting was carried out by a disturbed former student, who law enforcement said demonstrated many “red flags” in the years prior to the massacre. Local police knew that the shooter had guns but had no legal process by which they could take them away. The so-called “red flag laws” were meant to remedy that. Advocates of the law say it can also be used to take guns away from people who might be suicidal, or in some domestic violence situations.
After Parkland, red flag laws initially received broad bipartisan support, even some early support from the NRA. But as the battle for gun rights after the Parkland shooting heated up, the NRA backtracked.
Since then, red flag laws have become an intensely polarizing issue and even accelerated the “second amendment sanctuary movement,” which pushes for local sheriffs to have the authority to decide which gun laws to enforce and which to ignore. At least 12 states now have counties that have declared themselves “gun sanctuaries.”
Cover: Gun advocates attend a rally at the state Capitol to mark the start of a new law that allows most adults in Oklahoma to carry a firearm in public without a background check or training, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019, in Oklahoma City. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)