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Lawmakers to draft "red flag" bill to prevent gun violence

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AUGUSTA (WGME) - Next week lawmakers in Augusta will be proposing draft legislation, in response to the recent school shootings, that will allow law enforcement and citizens to petition local courts to take away a resident's gun.

The legislation is being proposed by Senator Mark Dion (D) who says the bill will address the problem surrounding mental health and gun ownership.

"It's an opportunity for the police or family members to petition a court to separate firearms from someone who they feel poses a substantial problem to our collective safety," he said.

He says that people will go before a judge and testify why they believe another person's gun should be taken away. If the judge sides with the petitioner, the gun owner will lose their gun for up to 21 days while family and law enforcement find ways to provide "mental health evaluations and help."

"He or she would order the police confront the individual for voluntary surrender of firearms, and that would provide the family or community at large with a 21 day breathing spell," he said.

He says if the gun owner refuses to give up their firearm voluntarily, other actions will be taken.

"If in fact they don't then police would have to take next steps whether that is to get a search warrant to seize the weapons or to detain the individual," he said.

The legislation is sponsored by lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but some say they're still unsure if it will work.

"I think it's a well motivated bill, I think it's coming from a sincerely place, but I think there are some problems with it," said Senator Eric Brakey (R).

He says that the legislation appears to take away a person's constitutional right to own a gun, and that people should have the right to defend themselves in court.

"If Government is going to come and essentially take your constitutional rights away from you, you have to have your due process of the law, be heard in court," he said.

Dion says that the gun owner will be brought into court for a hearing after their 21-day period is up, and that there is no guarantee the judge will side with the petitioner.

"It protects gun owner rights because it's not just [the petitioner's] opinion, they have to convince a judge, and the judge has to issue an order," he said.

Brakey says he also has a problem with the idea that taking away a gun will stop a person who is violent.

"It seems like what we're stopping is law-abiding citizens from being able to defend themselves and defend others. We're not stopping the criminals who want to do harm to others. Murder is against the law and they're murdering people," he said.

Dion says that this isn't about gun owners, but about the guns themselves, and removing them from a "dangerous situation."

"That this is not about a gun, as it is about the individual, and the recognition that separating those instruments from someone who is in danger of hurting themselves or someone else is a public safety issue we all can agree on," he said.

Brakey says he believes there should be more instructive gun legislation, but that this isn't the correct one.

"What happened in Florida, and recently in Maryland, it's absolutely tragic... I do think that there are things that need to be done, and there are things that could be effective, but I don't think this will be effective," he said.

Lawmakers say this draft legislation will be introduced next week, and will be assigned to a committee for a public hearing sometime next month.

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