Sen. Tom Cotton: Red Flag Laws Should Be a State Matter

By Melanie Arter | August 14, 2019 | 3:26pm EDT
(Photo by Al Drago/Getty Images)

( - Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Wednesday that he supports red flag laws, but he thinks it should be a state law, not a federal law, and there should be “real penalties” for anyone trying to misuse the law.

Cotton told Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” that he understands that conservatives are way of red flag laws and the people he spoke to in Arkansas are wary too.


You’ve got several presidential candidates who are demanding Walmart first instance stop selling all firearms. That does not resonate very well with people who own firearms or who need them to defend themselves or just to go hunting.

However, we shouldn't let mentally disturbed people have firearms, so the red flag laws that are under debate, first off should be a state matter. The federal government can provide grants for funding or technical assistance for the department of justice the way we do in other law enforcement contexts.

But we also need to provide due process so people have notice and a hearing, and they have to provide penalties if someone misuses them, say like has a grudge against a neighbor. But if within those parameters, I think we can act to make sure that mentally disturbed oftentimes young men who are angry and alienated, like the shooter in Dayton obviously was, don’t have access to firearms.


Cotton said Washington should support the states that want to adopt red flag laws. “It’s beyond the capabilities of federal law enforcement to try to monitor every single person in this country who might be a danger to others or a danger to themselves,” he said.

"That's why we have local police and sheriff's departments, but what we can do as the federal government is provide technical assistance through the Department of Justice or grants and other kinds of funding if states want to take that approach as well,” the senator said.

“What we’d need to do though is make sure that we are providing funding for states adopting laws that provide due process, that make sure that we’re focused on people like the Dayton shooter. The Dayton shooter apparently was found with a rape list or kill list of classmates he wanted to rape or kill. Apparently on a first date I assume the only date with a young woman he showed her a video of the shooting at the Pittsburgh synagogue,” Cotton said.

“How could you determine if someone was mentally ill, because the guy in Texas, I don't think he had any history with the law - maybe one little traffic violation or something that he had?” Fox News’ Ainsley Earhard asked.

“There’s not going to be a perfect solution. We can't stop every horrific crime in this country, but I think we can make a difference, and also what we can do to stop a crime in general is to make sure we are supporting our law enforcement community and that we are supporting partnerships between federal and local law enforcement, like I just heard from our U.S. attorney this week in Little Rock,” Cotton said.

“They’ve seen a significant decline in crime because we have some many more Arkansas communities enrolled in the Department of Justice’s Safe Community Project, which is designed to stop gun crime by getting criminals off the streets to begin with,” he said.

“Better at the state level you have understand the concern from red flag laws means someone telling on somebody you are right you may have punishment for that if there is a political reason or I don't like your beliefs that could go sideways real quick,” Fox News’ Pete Hegseth said.

“That's another reason why beyond the capabilities of the federal government vs. state and local governments who are on the police, know their own people is that it should be a state matter, because we have state experiences with these things, but there should be real penalties for anyone who might misuse such a law to carry out a personal grudge or a dispute of any kind,” Cotton said.


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