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Extreme Risk Gun Laws Constitutional, Effective

Washington—As the House Judiciary Committee prepares to hold a hearing on federal Assault Weapons Ban legislation on September 25, Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) released the following statement on misinformation spread by the National Rifle Association:

“Even though extreme risk protection laws enjoy widespread bipartisan support, the NRA suggests that due process is violated and these laws shouldn’t be enacted,” Feinstein said. “That’s completely wrong and displays a willful misunderstanding of how these laws work.”

Feinstein continued: “These extreme risk laws are modeled on domestic violence protection laws that have stood up in court time and time again. They’re clearly constitutional. They’re for a temporary period, they’re legal and they’re a very useful tool to remove guns from the hands of dangerous people. That’s why my law, which would create a grant program for states to enact these laws, is so important.”

NRA myth: The NRA says extreme risk prevention order laws violate due process and take guns from law-abiding citizens.

Fact: These laws are based on domestic violence protection order laws, which have repeatedly stood up to judicial scrutiny and protect due process rights.

  • Seventeen states and the District of Columbia already have enacted extreme-risk laws. None of these laws have been struck down in court.

  • Every state with an extreme risk law requires evidence be shown to a judge before that judge can order that firearms be removed from an individual. Someone’s neighbor cannot simply go to court and get an extreme risk order. The orders are temporary. Extreme-risk orders do not mean that someone can never own a gun again.

Feinstein gun safety bills

Senator Feinstein has introduced several pieces of legislation during the 116th Congress related to gun safety reform.

Assault Weapons Ban Act

  • Senator Feinstein in January 2019 introduced the Assault Weapons Ban, an updated bill to ban the sale, transfer, manufacture and importation of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

  • The bill, which currently has 34 Senate cosponsors, bans 205 military-style assault weapons by name. It also bans any weapon that accepts a detachable ammunition magazine and has one or more military characteristics including a pistol grip, a forward grip, a barrel shroud, a threaded barrel or a folding or telescoping stock.

  • The bill also bans magazines and other ammunition feeding devices that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, which allow shooters to quickly fire many rounds without needing to reload.

  • One update to the bill would allow, though not mandate, federal funds from the Justice Department’s Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant Program to be used to buy back assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. The funds provide an incentive to retire weapons and accessories already in circulation.

Extreme Risk Protection Order Act

  • Senator Feinstein in February 2019 introduced a bill to help states develop court processes that allow family members to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals.

  • The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act would allow states to use funds from the Justice Department’s COPS program to develop court processes that would allow family members to petition a court for a gun violence prevention order to temporarily block dangerous individuals from purchasing weapons from federally licensed dealers. If a prevention order were granted, the individual would be designated a prohibited purchaser in the NICS background check system.

  • States could also develop court processes that would allow family members to petition a court for an extreme risk protection order that would grant law enforcement the authority to temporarily take weapons from dangerous individuals who present a threat to themselves or others. The bill contains significant due process protections by ensuring confidentiality and the opportunity to be heard by a judge.

Age 21 Act

  • Senator Feinstein in May 2019 introduced the Age 21 Act, a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines from 18 to 21.

  • Under current federal law, an individual is required to be at least 21 years old in order to legally purchase a handgun but only 18 years of age to legally purchase an assault rifle like the AR-15 used in the Poway shooting.

  • The bill, which Senator Feinstein initially introduced in 2018 with Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), creates parity in federal firearms law by prohibiting the sale of assault weapons to individuals under 21.