Republicans and gun rights activists say the Biden administration illegally gave federal funds to states that don’t qualify under a program aimed at promoting so-called “red flag” laws.
In 2022, Congress passed and President Biden signed the bipartisan Safer Communities Act in response to the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Ovalde, Texas, which left dozens dead. The law encourages states to pass extreme-risk prevention laws, also known as “red flag” laws, which allow the public and members of law enforcement to petition the courts for a civil order to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms out of fear that the person may commit violence. After gun rights advocates raised Second Amendment concerns, Congress added requirements that states applying for federal grants to implement red flag laws include certain statutory safeguards.
But Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Rep. Alex Mooney, RW.Va. asserted in a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland that the Justice Department has turned over federal funds to states that do not meet minimum due process standards. The letter accuses the Biden administration of ignoring Congress and demands to know why grants were awarded to at least eight states and territories with no red flag laws on the books yet received federal funds under the DOJ program. It was signed by seven GOP senators and 26 House lawmakers.
“The Justice Department appears to have weaponized the bipartisan Safer Communities Act to illegally fund incompetent ‘red flag’ laws and pass gun confiscation laws to pro-gun states,” the lawmakers wrote.
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“Since the passage of the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, no state has amended its laws to meet the ‘due process’ requirements imposed by the 117th Congress,” the letter states. “Despite this, the Bureau of Justice Programs has provided funding to every state that has implemented a ‘red flag’ gun confiscation law on the books without applying Congress’s ‘due process’ requirements.” The federal government should have no part in funding state-level gun confiscation programs that violate the due process rights of gun owners.”
The Republicans, citing a myth-versus-fact sheet from the office of Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, say Congress made it clear that the bipartisan Safer Communities Act was not intended to require or encourage states to adopt red flag laws. The law also prohibits federal funding from being used to lobby state legislatures to pass any legislation or law.
“Troublingly, several states and localities without ‘red flag’ laws on the books have been funded to create and implement such programs — including Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota and West Virginia,” the Republican wrote. “It appears that this bipartisan Safer Communities Act grant program is being used by the federal government to influence states to enact ‘red flag’ gun confiscation laws.”
Lawmakers called it a “federal bribery program” and demanded that the DOJ explain the legal purpose of its federal grants to states without red flag laws.
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“DOJ’s efforts to disarm law-abiding gun owners are unconstitutional,” Marshall told Fox News. “The Biden administration must immediately stop this scheme to strong-arm states into enforcing these laws and answer for the millions of dollars illegally distributed in the effort to do so. Kansans will not accept any attempt by this administration to strip them of their Second Amendment rights.”
“This scheme by the Biden Department of Justice is clearly aimed at forcing states to pass bribery and gun confiscation laws,” Mooney said. “West Virginia is a constitutional state and has no business receiving federal dollars to limit Second Amendment rights. West Virginians deserve to know how the federal and state governments are spending tax dollars to limit your constitutional rights.”
Read the letter below. App users: Click here.
Gun Owners of America (GOA), another amendment group, said it tracked the grant program and was the first to notify Congress of state recipients who failed to qualify for funding under the law’s terms.
“We’ve been following this grant program closely since Senator Cornyn passed gun control last summer, and it’s turned out to be worse than we feared. Despite assurances that the money would not bribe states to pass ‘red flag’ laws, Biden’s DOJ has funded anti-gun bureaucrats for multiple states, any of which have funded gun confiscation laws on the books. – despite the fact that none of them meet the frivolous due process requirements mandated by federal legislation,” said Aidan Johnston, Director of Federal Affairs at the GOA.
“These concerns are just some of the reasons the GOA has opposed this law from the beginning, and we will continue to fight in the courts and on Capitol Hill,” he said.
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Fox News reached out to the Justice Department for comment but did not immediately receive a response.
The DOJ announced in February that it would give $231 million to states for crisis intervention, including efforts to strengthen Red Flag programs and prevention efforts to curb gun violence. Funding came from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act.
“These awards will support the kinds of crisis intervention programs that we know save lives and help protect children, families and communities across the country from senseless acts of gun violence,” Garland said at the time.
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Biden said in a statement that he supports red flag laws.
“Red flag laws, however, only save lives if community members use this tool effectively. Today’s announcement provides funding for states to educate the public about high-risk prevention orders and to train law enforcement and other officials in this intervention.”
Fox News’ Louis Casciano contributed to this report.