Politics & Government

SC’s Lindsey Graham explains ‘red flag’ bill ahead of Hamptons trip with Trump

Most Americans Want More Gun Control. Why Doesn’t It Happen?

Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.
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Polls show solid support for stricter laws, especially after mass shootings. But there are also deep disagreement, staunch opposition and growing disenchantment with gun control.

Amid debate over how to curb mass shootings such as the two last weekend, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham told White House reporters Friday that there is “more pressure” on Congress to pass gun-control measures and the “space to do nothing is gone.”

“And that’s a good thing,” the South Carolina Republican said moments before he and President Donald Trump boarded Air Force One on their way to a Hamptons fundraiser.

Graham, a gun owner who talked about owning his AR-15, also explained to reporters outside the White House why he and Connecticut Democrat U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal are pushing for “red flag” gun legislation — a proposal that Trump has himself called for after 31 people were killed in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, over the weekend.

Graham’s “red flag” proposal, as he explains it, would allow a family member to petition a court to take guns away from people who might hurt themselves or others. Under Graham’s proposal, states also could get grants to help enact their own “red flag” laws, including hiring mental health professionals to assist law enforcement in determining whether a person is a legitimate threat who needs to be barred from having a gun.

What Graham said Friday:

On putting threatening people ‘on a list’

A common thread in recent mass shootings, Graham said, is the firearms used to commit the crimes were purchased legally, he said Friday.

“None of these cases involved somebody that got around a background check,” Graham told reporters, according to a White House pool report. “All these guys bought the gun legally. There’s so many — like the guy in Dayton. If you get kicked out of school for threatening your schoolmates, with a rape list and a kill list, maybe you shouldn’t buy a gun. That’s the heart of the matter here.”

Asked how he would accomplish preventing someone like the Dayton shooter from getting a gun, Graham said, “You put them on a list.”

“I mean, when you start threatening the school, and when you start threatening violence against people in a serious kind of way, then there should be consequences with that,” Graham said.

On identifying people ‘about to blow’

A provision in Graham’s proposal would create a federal grant program to help states adopt their own “red flag” laws.

That money would help states hire mental health professionals that can assist law enforcement in identifying whether a person — for example, the Dayton shooter, Graham said — will harm others.

“You’re an average cop, I mean, you run into bizarre people all the time, OK?” Graham said Friday.

“You need somebody to help you figure out, hey this guy’s about to blow, this is more serious than that case. This is what’s missing in the system,” he said, adding “most law enforcement people don’t have the advisory team they need to make these hard calls.”

Offering another example, Graham said authorities had warnings about Nikolas Cruz, the alleged shooter who gunned down 17 people at his former Parkland, Florida, high school on Valentine’s Day in 2018. Prior to the school shooting, Cruz was expelled from school for disciplinary reasons.

“They went to his house 40 times,” Graham said. “He did everything but take an ad out in the paper, (saying) ‘I’m going to shoot somebody.’ You know, you just can’t let that keep going and going. There will be another one tomorrow, maybe. ... My goal is to have a system that can identify truly a person about to blow and do something about it before it’s too late.”

On owning an AR-15

“I’ve got an AR-15. I don’t think I’m the problem,” Graham said. “I want to keep the AR-15 or a pistol out of the hands of somebody that will use it wrongfully, right? That’s the whole goal is to keep the guns out of the hands of dangerous people.”

Graham said he has shot his AR-15 “twice. It’s more of a memorabilia thing” tied to his U.S. Air Force Reserve unit.

On pairing gun and immigration reform

Asked whether there’s a chance the immigration policy debate could get rolled into something Trump will approve of on background checks and gun legislation, Graham said, “Those are two things that probably won’t be merged, no.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.