Rep. Byron Donalds: Gun reform can’t be ‘knee-jerk reaction’

  • Gun reform debate has again arisen after a shooting in Louisville
  • Solutions are often stark, from arming teachers to banning AR-15s
  • Rep. Byron Donalds argues lawmakers must move past dogmatic positions

(NewsNation) — Gun reform is once again at the forefront of discussion across the nation after a shooting in Louisville, Kentucky, that left five people dead.

The solutions are often stark: Republicans propose arming teachers and hardening schools, while Democrats suggest banning the sale of AR-15 rifles.

Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Fla., argues that in order to make progress, lawmakers must move past dogmatic positions and make decisions based on data and nuance.

“If we’re going to legislate something nationwide, it can’t be a knee-jerk reaction by members of Congress just looking at the news” coverage of one event, he said Tuesday on “CUOMO.”

Louisville’s mayor called on the Kentucky legislature to allow the city to implement stricter gun laws due to what he called an epidemic of gun violence that isn’t seen in the rest of the state.

“Yesterday’s tragedy brings us to 40 people who’ve been shot to death this year in our city. That level of gun violence is horrific,” Mayor Craig Greenberg said.

Other reforms mentioned by legislators include so-called red flag laws, which allow courts to restrict the ability for someone to own a firearm if they pose an imminent threat.

Donalds believes one area lawmakers could make actual headway on is mental health resources.

“I think if you’re going to talk about states and the federal government getting into investments in mental health … and get people the help that they need, I think that one has real legs on both sides of the aisle,” he said.

The shooting in Louisville comes two weeks after one in Nashville at a private Christian school that claimed the lives of six people. Gov. Bill Lee on Tuesday called on Tennessee’s GOP-dominant General Assembly to pass legislation that would keep firearms away from people who could harm themselves or others.

In allowing courts to issue what are known as extreme risk protection orders, the laws are intended to temporarily remove guns — usually for up to a year — from people showing signs of potentially violent behavior. In many cases, family members or law enforcement must petition a court for an order.

During his time in the Florida legislature, Donalds voted against this type of legislation, arguing it pre-emptively seizes property and places an undue burden on gun owners.

“If you take their property from them (on mental health grounds), and then it’s found out that that wasn’t the case, now you have a taking which is … unconstitutional,” he said. “They have to go prove their innocence to reclaim their property.”

Kentucky passed a measure earlier this year declaring the state a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” prohibiting local and state police from enforcing any federal firearm regulation banning guns, ammunition, or firearm accessories that took effect after Jan. 21, 2021.

As he seeks reelection, Gov. Andy Beshear allowed the bill to become law without his signature.

Previous efforts to pass a red-flag law in neighboring Kentucky have made no headway in the Legislature. Lawmakers have adjourned for the year, and currently aren’t scheduled to meet until January. But after the school shooting, local leaders urged lawmakers to take meaningful action as they warned that anyone may be impacted by gun violence.

When considering what could move the needle, Donalds said it’s imperative that both Democrats and Republicans be open to compromise and comprehensive solutions.

“I think if you’re gonna be dogmatic about the conversation, then both sides are just going to retreat to their side and it’s an unfortunate reality of politics,” Donalds said. “If you’re not gonna at least acknowledge my side of an argument, then why am I going to deal with yours?”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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