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Davis backs 'red flag' law for gun owners; LaHood neutral
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Davis backs 'red flag' law for gun owners; LaHood neutral

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BLOOMINGTON — U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis is ready to vote for legislation that could help take some Americans' guns away — but he faces reluctance across the political spectrum, including from the Twin Cities' other congressman.

The Taylorville Republican is calling on Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring a federal "red flag" bill — which would help more states pass legislation allowing law enforcement to seize weapons in extreme cases — to the floor, and he think it would pass "with a huge bipartisan margin" despite unease from U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, R-Dunlap.

"This is a process that we believe would still protect the constitutional rights of every American to bear arms," Davis told The Pantagraph on Tuesday. "This could have an impact on shooters (where) there was plenty of evidence that would have allowed law enforcement to go in and remove those firearms from those individuals before they got to the crisis stage."

The law would let police and relatives ask a court to take guns from an owner. Illinois passed such a bill in 2018, the Firearms Restraining Order Act, but federal Democrats are pushing for background checks and other gun laws.

Pelosi has resisted the idea of calling the House back to Washington, D.C., from its summer recess early to address gun control and has pushed Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to call the Senate back.

Davis hopes the bill he's co-sponsored could "send a tremendous message to Senator McConnell and senators of all sides that there's bipartisan agreement on this." Legislators face increased pressure to act after at more than 30 died in mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, this month.

LaHood, however, told The Pantagraph he wants to set aside more resources to enforce current gun laws — he noted existing restrictions address those with mental illness, convicted of domestic violence or convicted of felonies — and he hasn't reviewed the "red flag" bill in detail.

"There's a lot of talks about raising the age (to purchase guns), 'red flag' laws, background checks. I want to make sure I've reviewed that," he said. "The biggest hindrance on the 'red flag' laws is, how is due process implemented. When I talk to law enforcement in my district, they have real concerns about how you, in a safe way, go and take weapons from somebody's home. ... Those issues need to be worked out, and abide by the Constitution."

Both men demurred on the possibility of an assault weapons ban, which is supported by 70 percent of voters, according to a Morning Consult poll. LaHood said "it depends on how you define an assault weapon."

"Any time you see a mass shooting, including the one that I was a part of, you feel for those who have gone through that," said Davis when asked about an assault weapons ban. "The problem that I see in Washington is that immediately when something like that happens, it's an immediate rush to the firearms side of the equation.

We've got to pass our 'red flag' law. ... That's how we can really truly address the problems we see with mental illness."

Davis was present when a gunman wounded U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., and three other people during a Congressional softball practice in June 2017 in Arlington, Va.

In response to a National Council on Behavioral Health study that said mental illness is not at the heart of most mass shootings, LaHood said, "We don't want to discourage people from seeking the help that they need."

"You balance that with the safety of our community. ... You (try to) put together public policy that protects privacy interests but looks out for the safety of our citizenry," he said. "I'm not sure there's an easy answer."

Contact Derek Beigh at (309) 820-3234. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_beigh

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