- The mother of the accused El Paso shooter called Texas police weeks before the shooting after she was worried that her son owned an “AK” type firearm, CNN reported.
- Despite having flagged the issue to authorities, police did not act further on the matter as her son, 21, was of legal age to own the weapon.
- Since the El Paso gunman did not show any “red flags” prior to the shooting, authorities did not have any grounds to seize the firearm.
- However, even if there had been “alarm bells,” it isn’t a simple process to confiscate firearms in Texas due to a legal loophole known as the relinquishment gap.
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The mother of the accused El Paso shooter called Texas police weeks before the August 3 shooting after she was worried that her son owned an “AK” type firearm.
The mother was concerned about her son’s ownership of the weapon given his age and lack of experience, attorneys Chris Ayres and R. Jack Ayres told CNN. Names were not given, CNN said, and there was no report from the police noting the call.
The attorneys described the call as “informational,” rather than to report a threat. Police did not act further on the matter as her son, 21, was of legal age to own the weapon. You must be at least 18 years of age to buy this type of gun in Texas. Moreover, a license isn’t required to openly carry a rifle in public in the state, the Texas Tribune reported.
“This was not a volatile, explosive, erratic behaving kid,” Ayres told CNN. “It’s not like alarm bells were going off.”
However, even if there had been “alarm bells,” Texas does not have a “red flag” law, or a law allowing “extreme risk protection orders.”
These state laws allow courts to issue a protection order “allowing the police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who are deemed by a judge to be a danger to themselves or to others,” The New York Times reports.
Seventeen states have varying degrees of these statutes in place. California’s, for example, allows family members to petition the court or a protection order if they believe someone is dangerous. Many of these laws were passed following the massacre in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.
Similar bills have been proposed in the Texas legislature, but as The Houston Chronicle reported, they “are opposed by the state’s influential gun lobby, which argues that current laws are sufficient, and that removing constitutionally protected guns even from a dangerous person doesn’t meaningfully prevent the threat.”
Texas has laws in place to seize a firearm in the hands of someone experiencing a mental health crisis, according to The Chronicle. (However, Texas and other states lack laws closing the “relinquishment gap,” or the ability to enforce that people who are barred from having guns give them up.)
Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, said that while extreme risk protection orders originally pertained to people at risk for suicide, he believes it could have some benefit when identifying possible mass shooters as well.
According to Wintemute, more than 80% of people who commit a shooting declare their intent in advance in some way, whether it be through family, friends, or social media.
“This is ‘see something, say something,'” Wintemute told INSIDER. “If something is said to law enforcement or, in some states, to a family, an extreme risk protection order can be the outcome. It’s focused on behavior; it’s not focused on mental illness.”
He also noted that despite the popularity of the term “red flag laws,” it would be more accurate to portray the policy as “extreme risk protection orders.”
“The thing that concerns me, most frankly, is that the metaphor ‘red flag law’ inspires fear,” Wintemute said. “But we’re … not trying to make people afraid; we’re trying to empower them. Because for this to work, participation of individual members of the public is absolutely vital. So, we use the term ‘extreme risk protection.'”
There is political support on both sides of the aisle for a federal law allowing for “extreme risk protection orders.” Supporters include President Donald Trump, Sen. Lindsey Graham, and several 2020 Democratic candidates like Sen. Cory Booker and former Rep. John Delaney.