Governor, House speaker begin work on creating a Texas ‘red flag’ law

Austin

AUSTIN (KXAN) — One of Gov. Abbott’s recommendations Wednesday to tackle school shootings has long been called for by gun control groups: a mental health protective order or “red flag” law.

The law would allow a court to issue a protective order against someone to take their guns away if the court believed they were a threat to themselves or somebody else. 

Abbott wants the legislature to “consider the merits of adopting a red flag law allowing law enforcement, a family member, school employee, or a district attorney to file a petition seeking the removal of firearms from a potentially dangerous person only after legal due process is provided.”

The leader of the Texas House, Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said he’s assigned the House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee to work on it ahead of the January 2019 legislative session. 

“It’s critically important that students and parents know when they return to school in August that schools are significantly safer and less vulnerable to a shooting tragedy, and today the state has taken the first steps toward giving them that assurance,” said Straus.

There is no word yet from Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick on whether the Senate will also begin their work. 

Judge Guy Herman sits on the mental health and probate court in Travis County.

“I have heard too many times at that state hospital that somebody had been threatening to kill somebody and somebody had access to guns,” said Judge Herman. 

Herman says threats on social media or to family, school employees or officers could easily be brought to a court. With a lawyer, notice and hearing, he’d be OK with removing guns from someone’s possession. 

“Unless they can make a showing to the court that whatever caused the problem early on no longer exists,” said Herman.

It could also apply to a child’s household.

“The shooting up in Connecticut. The mother knew she had a challenged son with his behavior. Yet she let him have access to guns. And what did he do? He got a gun, killed her, went down to Sandy Hook and killed 20 kids,” said Herman.

Travis County Constable Carlos Lopez says it’s a good idea. Right now, courts can only issue protective orders for domestic violence. 

Someone could always fight the judge’s order in court. 

“They do have a right and they do have a process involved so the court can determine at that point whether to dismiss a protective order,” said Lopez.

The gun rights lobby does not like this idea because in their view it takes away someone’s Second Amendment rights before they commit a crime. This is the furthest we’ve seen Gov. Abbott from the gun rights groups.

Texas lawmakers don’t meet again until January 2019 unless the governor calls a special session.  

It’s also important to point out it’s already against federal law for someone to have a gun who’s committed to an institution or under a guardianship to have a gun. But Judge Herman says it needs to be state law as well because the federal government rarely enforces it. 

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