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Matt Gaetz criticized 'red flag' gun laws and said any Republican senator supporting them is a 'traitor to the Constitution'

Matthew Loh   

Matt Gaetz criticized 'red flag' gun laws and said any Republican senator supporting them is a 'traitor to the Constitution'
  • Rep. Matt Gaetz blasted "red flag" gun laws even though they've been touted by GOP lawmakers.
  • Gaetz and other GOP members of the Judiciary House Committee said such laws are easily exploited.

Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz said on Thursday that any Republican senator in favor of "red flag" laws for guns would "betray" their voters and the US Constitution.

His opposition to red flag laws — a measure previously backed by former President Donald Trump and many Republican lawmakers — was raised during the Judiciary House Committee's debate on a gun safety bill to address the recent surge in high-casualty gun violence.

"Let the message from this committee hearing to Republican senators be astonishingly clear," Gaetz said to the camera. "If you back red flag laws as some reflexive response to some emotion that you have, you betray your voters."

"You are a traitor to the Constitution, the Second Amendment, the Fifth Amendment, you do nothing to make mass shootings less likely," he added.

Gaetz said red flag laws would "put a target on the back" of constituents "to be subjected to bizarre proceedings" that impact their rights. "And these will be abused, they are being abused," he added.

Gaetz, who sits on the committee, tabled an amendment declaring that Congress "disfavors the enactment" of red flag laws, writing that they "trample on an individual's due process and Second Amendment rights."

Red flag laws, enacted individually by states, typically allow family members, law enforcement, medical officers, or school authorities to seek quick court intervention over a person they believe is a gun threat to themselves or others.

Next week, Congress will address another act covering federal red flag laws.

Thursday's debated bill, however, mainly focused on raising the purchase age for semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and restricting high-capacity ammunition magazines.

Republican representatives on the committee, including Rep. Jim Jordan (R-TX) and Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), rallied behind Gaetz's amendment on Thursday, arguing that red flag laws could easily be exploited.

They warned that the speed at which a reported person can be barred from owning a gun means there's not enough time for a proper investigation or due process.

For example, someone seeking revenge on an ex-lover could have their guns stripped from them, removing the latter's ability to defend themselves, Gaetz said.

'Spare me the bullshit'

Responding to Gaetz's proposed amendment, the committee's chair, New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, said it wouldn't make sense for the amendment to "declare" what Congress disfavors because the House of Representatives hasn't even voted on the matter yet.

Democrat lawmakers in the committee also pointed out that Florida — the state Gaetz represents — already has a red flag gun law following the 2018 Parkland school shooting, and that the Trump administration also supported such legislation.

"You know who didn't have due process? You know who didn't have their constitutional right to life respected? The kids at Parkland, at Sandy Hook, in Uvalde, in Buffalo, and the list goes on and on," Rhode Island Rep. David Cicilline said. "So spare me the bullshit about constitutional rights."

Cicilline said that red flag gun laws are modeled after the government's response to domestic abuse cases and that they involve enough due process for the reporting system to be fair.

Gaetz's amendment failed to pass in a 24-18 vote along party lines. The bill, without his addition, received a 25-19 vote in favor of sending it to the House floor next week.

It's likely to pass in the House of Representatives, where Democrat lawmakers hold the majority, but whether the legislature will survive a Republican-led Senate is still in question.

The stance held by Gaetz and his GOP colleagues also comes as President Joe Biden on Thursday urged lawmakers to act on gun control. A federal red-flag law was among the legislation he supported.

"How much more carnage are we willing to accept?" he asked during his televised address.


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