Commentary, News

News report: Bipartisan “red flag” gun violence protection law working well in Florida

A National Public Radio news story broadcast this morning provides more compelling evidence that Florida’s so-called “red flag” law is working well to place roadblocks in the path of individuals prone to commit murder and/or suicide. The story reports that the bipartisan bill, which was passed in the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has resulted in more than 2,500 orders to temporarily remove weapons from the possession of potentially dangerous individuals. Judges have been issuing them at the rate of nearly five per day. This is from “Florida Could Serve As Example For Lawmakers Considering Red Flag Laws”:

Bob Gualtieri, the sheriff in Pinellas County, Fla., which has issued more than 350 risk protection orders, believes the red flag law is something Florida has needed for a long time. Before, even if someone was found to be mentally ill, he says police couldn’t take their guns. This law changes, and gives police a tool for dealing with people “that have said things, that have done things, exhibited behaviors that rise to the level of concern.”

Once the order is in place, Gualtieri says, “They can’t run out and buy guns, acquire guns. Because you’re prohibited from possessing, from owning or purchasing under a risk protection order. So, it’s a big deal.”

While the law is clearly not perfect — judges express concerns, for instance, about the challenge of issuing orders based on predictions of possible human behavior — the law gets good reviews in many places. what’s more, it became law without active opposition from the NRA.

The largest number of risk protection orders, more than 380, have been issued in Polk County, an area with no major cities and a population of some 700,000. Perhaps surprisingly, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd is an outspoken supporter of gun rights.

“Yeah I’m a huge second amendment person,” Judd said. “I certainly believe those that are not mentally ill and have not had a felony conviction have the right to possess firearms.”

The NRA hasn’t actively opposed the red flag law here. Judd, a card-carrying member says the law requires a person to surrender their firearms to police or to a family member who agrees to keep them in a secure location. But it’s only temporary. For Judd, that’s an important distinction.

“The risk protection order does not allow the government to seize your firearms,” he said. “It’s more or less a cooling off period.”

While such a law is far from all that is needed, the experience in Florida ought to send a strong message to Republican legislative leaders in North Carolina that they can and should stop their blockade of a similar proposal by Durham state Rep. Marcia Morey.

immigration, News

Legislature sends immigration bill to Cooper; scores of nonprofits and businesses call for veto

The state House of Representatives gave final approval this afternoon to legislation that would force local sheriffs to hold individuals that they would otherwise release, based on “detainer” requests from federal immigration officials. The House vote was 62-53.

Proponents say the bill is necessary to aid law enforcement in protecting public safety, but opponents have argued forcefully that it will have the opposite effect. After the bill passed the ACLU of North Carolina released a statement calling on Gov. Cooper to veto the measure accompanied by endorsements from scores of national and state-level nonprofits and state-based businesses.

RALEIGH – More than 70 national organizations, 40 North Carolina groups, and 80 North Carolina businesses are urging Governor Roy Cooper to veto a bill that would force all North Carolina county sheriffs to assist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in detaining and deporting community members or face removal from office.

In separate letters, the organizations say the bill would harm North Carolinians by spreading fear within immigrant communities, further accelerating the federal government’s deportation machine, and subverting the will of the voters.

House Bill 370, which has been approved by both chambers of the General Assembly, would require county jails to comply with a request from federal immigration officers to hold someone in jail, even if they are eligible for release under North Carolina law. So-called “ICE detainer requests” often lack probable cause and can lead to the prolonged detention of people without a court order, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution.

“By vetoing this brazen attack on North Carolina’s sheriffs and voters who have made it clear they do not want ICE terrorizing their communities, Governor Cooper can send an important message that he supports both local law enforcement and the rights of all communities,” said Susanna Birdsong, Senior Policy Counsel for the ACLU of North Carolina, one of the groups urging Cooper to veto. “This dangerous bill strips local law enforcement of their ability to make decisions in the best interest of public safety, forcing every county in North Carolina to divert resources to do the bidding of President Trump’s deportation force whether they want to or not. Governor Cooper should put a stop to this extreme agenda, stand up for local law enforcement, and veto this bill without delay.”

In a separate letter to Cooper, the ACLU of North Carolina explained the constitutional concerns with requiring sheriffs to unconditionally comply with all detainer requests received from ICE, whose history presents a troubling pattern of illegal arrests.

Last year, voters in North Carolina’s two largest counties – Mecklenburg and Wake – elected sheriffs who campaigned on promises, now fulfilled, to end their involvement in the federal 287(g) program, a partnership with federal immigration officers that has led to the deportation of thousands from North Carolina. Newly elected sheriffs in Buncombe, Forsyth, Guilford, and Durham counties have also announced that they will no longer hold people in jail on ICE detainer requests.

“If Governor Cooper allows this anti-immigrant bill to become law, it will spread more fear across our communities, tear apart families, and force local governments to divert resources to fuel the Trump administration’s deportation pipeline,” said Martha Hernandez, community organizer with Comite de Accion Popular. “It’s important that our state’s highest elected official take a stand for the rights of North Carolina communities and against this extreme anti-immigrant political agenda.”

The full list of groups signing each letter is: Read more

Commentary, News

Dangerous anti-immigrant bill moving in the NC House today

The House Rules Committee voted to concur with Senate amendments to House Bill 370 and send it to the House floor today. As you will recall, HB 370 is the dangerous, Trump administration-inspired bill  that would force local sheriffs to cooperate with federal immigration officials. A final floor vote could happen this afternoon.

As we observed back in late June, the bill will, if it becomes law, endanger public safety:

Simply put, when immigrant communities lose faith in local law enforcement and come to see it as an arm of ICE, they greatly reduce the rate at which they report crimes and cooperate with local officers. Bill proponents have attempted to undercut this argument by highlighting a handful of isolated incidents in which individuals released by sheriffs have committed serious crimes. The trouble with this reasoning, however, is that it elevates anecdotes over hard data.

That’s why representatives of the North Carolina Victims Assistance Network, North Carolina Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and North Carolina Coalition Against Domestic Violence authored a joint letter this spring expressing their deep concerns about the proposal.

As the letter pointed out:

“Victims who do not have documented status are already threatened with deportation on a regular basis by abusers who are aware of their status. If HB 370 passes, abusers and traffickers would have a new weapon to strengthen these threats and hold them over victims’ heads when a victim is trying to call 911 for help. Such reports – or the threat of such reports – would be an extremely powerful weapon for abusers.”

The letter goes on to note that, as they are for many citizens, domestic violence situations can be enormously complex. While they may need protection, many victims often depend on their abusers for basic needs – including support of their children – and therefore do not want them deported.

Add to these basic public safety concerns the distraction from more serious law enforcement matters that the constant entanglement with immigration enforcement will inevitably cause –indeed, many immigrants will find themselves held without bail for minor offenses, and even driving violations – and the proposal looks that much worse.

The bottom line: As it is with the vast majority of the Trump anti-immigrant agenda, HB 370 is not about promoting public safety; it is about advancing a xenophobic political agenda rooted in fear and racism. A promised veto from Gov. Cooper will be welcome and should be sustained.

Commentary, NC Budget and Tax Center

NC has nation’s third highest total of excessive deaths from failure to expand Medicaid

In case you missed it, there are some new and incredibly sobering numbers out that ought to be interfering with the sleep patterns of Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger and House Speaker Tim Moore. As Alexandra Sirota of the N.C. Budget & Tax Center recently reported:

New research released by the National Bureau of Economic Research provides estimates of the life and death impact of Medicaid expansion.  While many researchers have pointed to the improvements to health outcomes, management of health conditions, and quality of life that comes with access to affordable health care for those in need, this data provides new and compelling evidence that the decision to expand Medicaid has a profound affect on the life expectancy of adults living in the coverage gap.

By linking death records and data on program participation and health outcomes across all states, the authors of this new report estimate the impact of Medicaid expansion on the mortality rate of near-elderly adults.  Their findings point to a 9.3 percent decline in annual mortality for this age group in those states with Medicaid expansion.  The primary reason for the improvement in life expectancy is disease management while under the care of Medicaid.

In addition to this nationwide comparison, the researchers provide estimates of the number of excessive deaths in North Carolina due to the failure of Medicaid expansion.  Three hundred and fifty people in North Carolina died because of the lack of affordable health care coverage.  This represents the third highest number of excessive deaths for a state that hasn’t expanded Medicaid behind Texas and Florida.

Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend

In case you missed it, the Greensboro News & Record hit the nail on the head with its Sunday editorial, “Red tape for red flag.” In it, the N&R blasts the the General Assembly leadership for its inexcusable refusal to take up common sense gun safety legislation that would allow for judge-issued “extreme risk protection orders” like the bill introduced six months ago by some House Democrats.

Here’s the conclusion:

A red flag law is a reasonable next step. Filed by state House Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham Democrat and a former judge, the bill would allow family members or law enforcement to request that a judge issue a temporary order to remove guns from a person who is considered a danger to himself or others. Among the primary sponsors is Greensboro Democrat Pricey Harrison.

Also called “extreme risk protection orders” and “risk warrant laws,” such bills have been passed in 17 states and the District of Columbia. President Trump voiced his support for red flag laws after the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton. “We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms,” the president said in an address to the nation on Aug. 5, “and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process.” (Then again, late last week, the president was backing off tougher gun laws, as he has before.)

In states that have passed them, red flag laws have shown promise, especially in reducing suicides. In Connecticut, the first state to adopt a red flag law in 1999, firearm suicides dropped by 1.6% after its initial passage. In 2007, when the law was more aggressively enforced following the Virginia Tech shootings, firearm suicides dropped by 13.7%. That’s significant, since nearly two-thirds of gun deaths in America are suicides. In the 10 years following passage of Indiana’s law in 2005, gun suicides dropped by 7.5%. A separate study by Duke University study found that, for every 10 gun seizures in Connecticut and Indiana, roughly one suicide was prevented.

To be sure, the impact of red flag laws on mass shootings is not clear. And there are valid questions about possible unintended consequences of such laws (if only Congress would fund national research on gun violence, which it still refuses to do). But to not consider such a law in North Carolina, in the open, on its merits, is both indefensible and irresponsible.

Click here to read the entire editorial.