Rep. Stewart expresses support for ‘red flag’ gun laws during town hall

ST. GEORGE — In the wake of mass shootings in Texas and Ohio over the weekend, Republican Utah Congressman Chris Stewart told constituents in a town hall meeting Monday that he favors what is known as “red flag” gun legislation.

Congressman Chris Stewart speaking to constituents at a town hall meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 5, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Responding to a question about gun control and the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, that left 31 people dead, Stewart said he supports legislation that would allow the confiscation of an individual’s firearms for a temporary period if that person is accused of being a potential threat to others or is considered mentally unsound.

“Perhaps taking efforts to take weapons away from those who have indicated they are going to do violence or people who have mental health concerns – I think that’s the first place to start,” Stewart said.

As the congressman explained it, a family member or someone who lives with the gun owner would have to be the one to make the accusation enabling law enforcement to confiscate the firearms for a period of up to 30 days. The case would then be put before a judge within 72 hours to determine if the action was valid.

If the judge rules there’s enough evidence to keep the firearms away from the gun owner, it allows time for mental health evaluations and other concerns to be addressed.

Stock image. Photo by by Brett Hondow from Pixabay, St. George News

“That would give us some time to evaluate someone,” Stewart said.

A similar law was proposed by state Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton, during the last two sessions of the Utah Legislature. Handy pushed the red flag measure as a way to help prevent gun-involved suicides in the state, but the proposed bills did not survive the legislative process.

Opponents to the bill stated there are already similar laws on the books and that there’s a risk it could be abused.

Stewart said he was a staunch supporter of the Second Amendment yet also favors regulation to a point.

He supports the ban on bump stocks that came in the wake of 2017’s Las Vegas shooting, as well as regulations on automatic firearms, yet he stopped short of saying he supported any outright bans.

A woman addresses Congressman Chris Stewart during town hall meeting in Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 5, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

In addition to red flag legislation and what he called “reasonable” regulations, Stewart also said he is in favor of closing background check loopholes.

Besides gun-related issues, Stewart addressed a plethora of other topics as well before a rather vocal crowd Monday.

At points in the meeting audience members were going back and forth with each other over either being able to ask questions of the congressman or being actually able to hear what he had to say over the occasional jeers and bouts of snickering.

As with previous town halls, Stewart spoke about his stance against socialism and pointed to the New Green Deal and the concept of Medicare for all as examples. These comments were met by a man in the crowd calling the congressman a liar and fearmonger.

A “baby Trump” balloon set atop a sign carried by an attendee to a town hall hosted by Congressman Chris Stewart held in Hurricane, Utah, Aug. 5, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

On matters of local interest, Stewart once again expressed support for the Lake Powell Pipeline and proposed northern corridor.

Stewart said both the pipeline and corridor are necessary to accommodate Washington County’s growth, adding that the alternative would be to quit issuing building permits for newcomers, to which one man clapped in response.

Stewart introduced legislation concerning the northern corridor in 2018, which subsequently stalled in Congress when the Democrats took control of the House at the start of 2019.

The Associated Press contributed to this post.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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