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In The Shadow Of Suicides, Senate Panel Makes Rare Move To Consider Gun Control

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will preside over a hearing Tuesday on red flag gun laws.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, will preside over a hearing Tuesday on red flag gun laws.
Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Days after three separate suicides in Parkland, Fla., and Newtown, Conn. left those communities reeling, the Senate is doing something rare for a GOP-led chamber: holding a hearing on gun control. In the previously scheduled hearing, the full Senate Judiciary Committee will bring experts to Capitol Hill Tuesday on extreme risk protection orders, commonly referred to as red flag laws.

These laws allow law enforcement, and in some states, relatives and other concerned parties, to petition judges in order to temporarily restrict access to firearms from people who may present a harm to themselves or others.

Supporters of the laws say they can save lives by removing guns from individuals who should not have them. Some states have used the laws to successfully protect individuals from suicide, at least one study shows.

Opponents of such laws say they violate the second amendment and say they do nothing to thwart the underlying issues causing the threat.

The Senate hearing Tuesday will focus on guidelines that a handful of states have used to implement red flag laws, something that Chairman Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., has signaled he would support on the federal level.

Graham told CNN earlier this month that he saw red flag measures as "prevention," adding that he and President Trump have "definitely" spoken about it.

Last year Graham, along with Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., began working on legislation, but their efforts never became law.

Since the deadly shooting in Parkland, Fla., last year, eight states have enacted their own extreme risk laws. In all, 14 states have them on the books. Colorado, where the bill is backed by a lawmaker who lost his son in the 2012 Aurora movie theater shooting, appears to be on the verge of passing one of its own.

The hearing comes at a time when there may be renewed national interest in red flag laws. In recent days, two survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting died by apparent suicide.

On Monday, Jeremy Richman, whose daughter was killed in the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., was found dead in an apparent suicide.

Since taking control of the U.S. House, Democrats have sought to make gun control a major platform in their governing agenda.

At the start of the 2019 Congress, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators led by Marco Rubio, R-Fla., re-introduced a bill that was first unveiled in the weeks following the Parkland shooting.

The alleged Parkland gunman, a former student who had received treatment for mental health, legally purchased the firearm used in the attack.

Last month the Democrat-led House approved a pair of bills aimed at broadening the federal background check system. The bills face long odds getting approval in the Republican-controlled Senate.

Activists led by the March For Our Lives pro-gun control group, plan to hold demonstrations on Capitol Hill much of Tuesday to urge the Senate lawmakers to take up a the Background Check Expansion Act.

The legislation, introduced by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., has 41 co-sponsors. None of them are Republicans.

If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (En Español: 1-888-628-9454; Deaf and Hard of Hearing: 1-800-799-4889) or the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

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