Republicans and gun rights activists are accusing the Biden administration of unlawfully distributing federal funds to states that did not qualify under a program aimed at promoting “red flag” laws. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, signed by President Biden in 2022 after mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, incentivizes states to pass extreme risk protection laws, also known as “red flag” laws. These laws allow individuals and law enforcement to seek civil orders to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there are concerns that they might pose a threat of violence.
Congress included specific due process protections in the law after concerns were raised by gun rights advocates regarding Second Amendment rights. However, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) and Rep. Alex Mooney (R-W.Va.) sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, stating that the Justice Department provided federal funds to states that did not meet the minimum due process criteria. The lawmakers allege that the administration ignored Congress and funded states that had no “red flag” laws in place. The letter, signed by seven GOP senators and 26 House lawmakers, accuses the administration of misusing the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act as a “federal bribery program.”
According to the lawmakers, the Justice Department provided funding to states such as Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, and West Virginia, which did not have “red flag” laws. They argue that the program is being used to pressure states into adopting these laws, which they claim violate the due process rights of gun owners. Gun Owners of America (GOA), a Second Amendment group, also expressed concerns about the grant program, noting that it alerted Congress to state recipients that failed to meet the funding requirements under the law.
Both Sen. Roger Marshall and Rep. Alex Mooney criticized the DOJ’s efforts to incentivize states into enacting “red flag” laws, which they believe infringe on Second Amendment rights. The Biden administration’s decision to provide funds for crisis intervention, strengthening red flag programs, and curbing gun violence prevention efforts under the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act has sparked controversy. Republicans have demanded an explanation from the Justice Department regarding the lawful purpose of these grants to states without “red flag” laws.
The Biden administration has publicly expressed support for red flag laws, asserting that these measures can save lives when effectively used by the community and law enforcement. However, the current situation has raised concerns among gun rights activists and Republicans who fear the potential infringement on constitutional rights. The debate surrounding the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act continues, with further scrutiny expected from both Congress and the courts.