Red Flag Law Would Temporarily Seize Guns from Arkansans Deemed Dangerous

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The conversation about how to curb gun violence in Arkansas continued at the capitol Monday.

Two Democrats presented a bipartisan plan to their colleagues for the first time ahead of the 2019 legislative session, which starts in January. 

Rep. Greg Leding and Sen. Will Bond have drafted their own red flag law. It would temporarily seize guns from Arkansans who are deemed dangerous.

Connecticut has had a red flag law on the books since 1999. Twelve more states have jumped on board since, most after the Parkland mass shooting in February.

“It’s an awful feeling,” Leding said during the latest Joint Performance Review meeting. “It was an awfully familiar feeling.”

As the effects of the Florida shooting rang out across the country, Leding and Bond did not want to watch but act.

“There’s not a mechanism to short circuit access to weapons,” Bond said. “That’s what this bill would do.”

Their legislation would allow family members, friends and police to ask judges to issue temporary restraining orders on gun owners if they appear to pose a threat to themselves or others.

“No prohibition on access to firearms is ever permanent under these laws,” Leding said. 

Law enforcement would take away the weapons for 72 hours, then a judge would decide to give the weapons back or extend the temporary restriction. 

Leding pointed out that gun owners in other states have to wait 14 to 21 days before appearing in front of a judge.

“We want to make sure that when we are talking about constitutional rights that we move as quickly as possible because due process is a very key component of any red flag legislation,” Leding said.  

Also unlike other states, the bill would punish people who falsely report a gun owner. They would face a felony.

Rep. Kim Hammer, R-Benton, asked if the legislation would make it easier for law-abiding citizens to conceal carry. Leding said he was neutral on that for now, weighing that as a possibility.

Sen. Alan Clark, R-Lonsdale, asked if it could apply only to those gun owners who wish to harm themselves.

“While we do feel that suicide is an important component of that, we don’t want to have potentially missed an opportunity to address those other situations,” Leding responded.

The Trump administration and the NRA have thrown their support behind red flag laws. The ACLU has come out against them, worrying they could harm more gun owners than intended. 

In Arkansas, Gov. Asa Hutchinson has said he is open to a conversation about the laws. However, spokesman J.R. Davis said Hutchinson has yet to see one that would protect due process, which is his biggest concern. 

Leding and Bond have also drafted a bill that would raise the age to 21 to purchase an assault weapon.

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