MADISON — As the U.S. Senate moves closer to a vote on a gun control package, a new poll shows a plurality of Americans have serious misgivings about so-called red flag laws.
The Convention of States Action survey finds 47% of respondents believe laws designed to temporarily take away firearms from individuals have the potential to be abused by local authorities and government officials. More so, these voters believe red flag laws could be used to target political opponents and citizens who disagree with public officials.
Nearly 31% of respondents said they’re not concerned the laws could be abused, and 22.5% were not sure.
The nationwide poll of 1,084 likely general election voters was conducted June 16-19 by renowned pollster The Trafalgar Group.
While a majority of Democrats surveyed don’t believe red flag laws would be subject to abuse, 72% of Republicans and 52% of Independents believe the controversial measures could be abused.
“Americans want real, workable solutions to the mass shootings we are seeing in this nation, but it’s obvious that they don’t see the proposed ‘red flag’ laws as the answer,” Mark Meckler, president of Convention of States Action, said. “Government officials at all levels have spent the last two years demonizing their opponents and using whatever means possible to censor or threaten those who disagree with them, so the idea that we should now trust those same people to not abuse a law that could infringe on basic constitutional rights is laughable.”
As the Pew Charitable Trust’s Stateline reported in 2019, most red flag laws are vague on what constitutes a “significant danger. Civil liberties defenders say the opaqueness gives courts broad discretion to seize firearms, And in some states, respondents are not guaranteed representation in court, since these are civil and not criminal matters.
The gun control package, crafted by a group of Democrat and Republican lawmakers and endorsed by the top ranking senators from both parties, expands background checks for would-be gun buyers between the ages of 18 and 21, and incentivizes states with $750 million in taxpayer money to create red flag laws.
Tuesday’s vote (64-34) was procedural, allowing the package to be debated. Lawmakers expect a final vote on the bills yet this week, before congress shuts down for its two-week 4th of July holiday.
Wisconsin’s senators split on Tuesday’s procedural vote. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) said the measures will “save lives.” Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Oshkosh), said the red flag component in particular will cost liberties.
“This bill provides resources to states to adopt red flag laws without requiring sufficient due process to those accused —thereby eroding 2nd Amendment protections,” he said in a statement. “I simply cannot support it.”
Many Americans have the same concerns, according to the Convention of States Action poll.
“More and more Americans are coming to the conclusion that the government abuses any power it’s given, and they are responding accordingly,” Meckler said.