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Center for Firearms Law | Preventing Gun Violence with “Extreme Risk” Laws

JAKE CHARLES: All right. Thank you all for joining
us here this evening to discuss an important
type of legislation aimed at curbing gun violence
in the United States. My name is Jacob Charles. And I’m the executive
director of the Duke Center for Firearms Law housed
here at the Duke Law School. The senator is
excited to sponsor this event and
similar programming throughout the year
aimed at elevating the discourse around firearms
law and the Second Amendment. As you may know, more than
40,000 Americans each year die by guns. Many more are injured. And of those 40,000 gun
deaths, about 2/3 are suicides. We’re very grateful to have with
us a distinguished panel who’s going to talk about one
type of legislation that may be able to make a
dent in these numbers. Before introducing
these guests, I’ll provide a short overview
of extreme risk laws, or what are sometimes
called red flag laws. These are laws that allow law
enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from a person
that a court has determined it is dangerous to
themselves or others. If the person asking the
court to temporarily remove the firearms proves
their case, the court will enter what’s known as
an extreme risk protection order or ERPO. That permits law enforcement
to disarm the person who has been found dangerous. 17 states and the
District of Columbia currently have extreme
risk laws on the books. And more than a
dozen of these laws have been passed in the
last two years alone. Clearly, in other
words, there is momentum for this type of legislation. One important thing
to note is that these are state level interventions. There is no federal
extreme risk law. And the proposals
you may have seen in the news for
federal legislation would not create one. Instead, the federal
legislation would provide incentives for states
to enact their own extreme risk laws that meet a certain
minimum standard. The proposed federal
legislation would also make it a federal crime
for an individual who is subject to an ERPO, an
extreme risk protection order, to purchase a gun in any state. So for instance, someone who
is subject to a North Carolina ERPO couldn’t simply hop
next door into Virginia and purchase a gun. But because the
extreme risk laws are state level
interventions, they can vary a bit from
state to state. There are several main
features of extreme risk laws on which the states vary. First, states vary in who can
petition for an extreme price protection order. All states allow law
enforcement to petition for one. And most allow family
or household members to do so as well. Some expand the
pool even farther to educators or
administrative professionals at schools or coworkers that
can petition for an ERPO. Second, the states differ
in how a petitioner can get emergency relief. This often happens in
what’s called an ex parte proceeding where the petitioner
proves that an individual is at an imminent risk of
harming themselves or others. The individual against
whom the verbal is sought, sometimes called the
respondent, doesn’t need to be present for these. That’s why it’s called
an ex parte proceeding. The states vary in the
showing that a petitioner has to make at this ex parte stage. The majority require something
like good, or reasonable, or probable cause. Some require showing a
preponderance of the evidence, more likely than not. And some require a clear
and convincing showing, which is generally the highest
standard in civil cases. None require proof beyond
a reasonable doubt, which is generally
limited to criminal cases. Third, states different in
how long an emergency ex parte order can stay in effect. These range from permitting
them to stay in effect for one to two days in
Maryland, up to 21 days in California and Oregon. Most popular number
among the states is 14 days for an
emergency order. Finally, the states differ
in what the petitioner must do to obtain a full ERPO, which
usually lasts for between six months and a year. About 2/3 of the state require
a clearing and convincing showing, again the highest
standard known in civil cases. And about one third
of them require showing of preponderance of the
evidence more likely than not. Extreme risk laws have been
effective at generating bipartisan consensus
in many states. But there are critics who say
they run afoul of the Second Amendment or violate a
respondent’s due process rights while we
will not be focusing on the constitutional dimensions
in the main presentation this evening, feel free to
ask any questions about them in the Q&A afterwards. Briefly, so long as the
procedural protections given to the respondent
satisfy due process, any Second Amendment
challenge to laws that temporarily
disarm someone who’s been determined to be
dangerous face an uphill battle under current law. As for due process,
the Supreme Court has said, in general,
that due process requires notice of government action and
opportunity to contest that. The Supreme Court
has also said that, in exceptional circumstances,
that opportunity to be heard can be postponed until
after the deprivation. Thus the idea of an ex
parte day extreme risk order is consistent with the
Supreme Court’s recognition that emergency
situations justify quick action, necessitating
seizure of property before a hearing is held. As I said, we’d be
happy to discuss any of these issues in the Q&A. Thanks for bearing with
that lengthy overview. Now it’s time to turn it
over to the panelists. The plan for tonight is
that each of our panelists will discuss a matter
for 15 or 20 minutes. And then we’ll open it up
for a Q&A time at the end. We have the room until 7:30. But I know that I, and
I’m sure our panelists, would be happy discuss
these issues anytime even outside this setting. Let me introduce our panelists
before we get started. First, we have
professor Kristin Goss. She’s the Kevin D. Gorter
Professor of Public Policy and Political Science at
the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University. She also founded and directs
the university semester in Washington program. Professor Goss’s
research focuses on civic engagement and interest
groups in American politics. She is the author, co-author,
or co-editor of four books– The Gun Debate, What
Everyone Needs To Know; Disarmed, the Missing Movement
for Gun Control in America; Gun Studies, Interdisciplinary
Approaches to Politics, Policy, and Practice; and the
Paradox of Gender Equality, How American Women’s
Groups Gained and Lost Their Public Voice. She is now at work on a book
about elite philanthropy in an age of
democratic distress. Before entering the
Academy, Professor Goss was a Washington-based
journalist for six years covering nonprofit
organizations and foundations for the Chronicle
of Philanthropy. She received a BA degree
with high honors from Harvard College, a master’s degree
in public policy from Duke University, and a PhD
in political science from Harvard University. She’s also a faculty affiliate
of the Center for Firearms Law. Next, we have Professor
Jeffrey Swanson. He’s a professor in psychiatry
and behavioral sciences at Duke University
School of Medicine and a visiting scholar at
the John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. Professor Swanson
is a sociologist who collaborates
across disciplines to build evidence
for policies and laws to reduce firearm-related
violence and suicide and to improve
outcomes for adults with serious mental
illnesses in the community. He is an author of over 200
publications on subjects including the social
environmental context of violence and mental
illness, implementation of state firearms restrictions
related to mental health adjudications, effectiveness
of involuntary outpatient commitment, and psychiatric
advanced directives. Professor Swanson led
the research group that published the first
empirical evaluation of risk-based temporary
firearm removal laws in Indiana and Connecticut that were the
precursor to the extreme risk laws that we’ll talk
about this evening. He received the 2011 Carl Tabb
Award from the American Public Health Association and the 2010
Eugene C. Hargrove, MD Award from the North Carolina
Psychiatric Foundation, both for outstanding career
contributions to mental health research. Professor Swanson served
as a member of the John B. And Catherine T. MacArthur
Foundation Research Network on mandated community
treatment and the methods core of the Robert Woods Johnson
Foundation Public Health Research Program. He frequently serves
as a consultant to policymakers at the
national and state levels. And he is also a
faculty affiliate of the Center for Firearms Law. Finally, we have
Representative Marcia Morey. She’s a Democratic member
of the North Carolina House of Representatives
representing District 30. She was appointed to the
House on April 5, 2017 and was elected to the
seat in November 2018. Prior to serving time in
the North Carolina House, Representative Morey was
a district court judge for the 14th Judicial District
Durham County from 1999 to 2010 and was the chief district
court judge from January 1, 2011 until April 2017. Her professional
experience also includes serving as the Executive
Director of the Governor’s Commission on Juvenile
Crime and Justice to reform North Carolina’s
juvenile justice system and as an assistant district
attorney for the 14th Judicial District. Representative Maury earned
her undergraduate degree from Millikin
University in Illinois, her master’s degree in
education from Reed College, and her JD from Northwestern
University Law School. A competitive swimmer since
age 6, Representative Morey was co-captain of
the US Olympic team at the 1976 Montreal games. AUDIENCE: Wow. JAKE CHARLES: And I’ll turn
it over to Professor Goss. KRISTIN GOSS: I
have to follow that? So thanks. Thanks so much for
everyone for being here. I’m the designated
political scientist so what I’m going to
try to do is put these laws in some sort of
a historical and political context and talk about some
of the policy challenges going forward involving
government actors. And then my colleagues will
zero in on some of the more specific aspects of these laws. So for those of
you who don’t know much about the history of gun
violence prevention in America, I think that it’s been the
case in the last decade or so there’s been what I call
a strategic turn toward more modest, more
incremental, and more what we would call
narrowly-tailored laws. So back in the day when gun
violence prevention started, there was a lot of talk of
banning all handguns nationwide or licensing all gun
owners nationwide by the federal government. And those kinds
of bold proposals have really ceased
being on the agenda. And gun violence
prevention groups are looking to do things that
are more modest and more aimed at people who may have some– presumed to have some sort of
elevated risk of committing violence, of misusing
their firearm. So for example, there’s
been a lot of movement on a domestic violence
front of tightening up state level domestic violence laws. There’s been some effort
to fix the reporting system for the background check– for the background check
system so that people who are prohibited
from owning a gun, that their records
get into the system where they can be
stopped from buying one. And you know, you
hear a lot about also expanding background checks
to private sales of firearms. So these are all kind
of modest proposals that most likely would
do quite a bit of good. So the politically
ERPOs, I would say, are kind of a piece with
those kinds of proposals. These more narrowly
tailored laws are still the focus of a
lot of political debate, so the National
Rifle Association, which is the most
powerful gun lobby, and has, together with the
state affiliates and other sorts of gun rights groups that
exist at the state and national level, are still
going to sort of fight a lot of these even
more modest proposals. But in some cases,
they will stand down and allow some of these
proposals to be passed. So they’re definitely less
contentious than handgun bans and other more bold or
inclusive proposals. The ERPO laws are
interesting, because I think they offer
something to people on different sides of
the debate in some cases. So for gun violence
prevention advocates who have faced real political
headwinds with respect to their agenda in at least
a fair number of states, these ERPO laws can
be a flexible tool for a number of different
kinds of situations. So you know, it’s
hoped that they can be tools for
preventing suicide, for preventing
domestic violence, and even for preventing
mass shootings. So they might be
applicable across a variety of potential scenarios. For some gun rights lawmakers,
and emphasis on some, these laws also may
allow the promise of doing something about gun
violence, which is rising up the political agenda
pretty precipitously these days, without
really directly affecting law abiding gun
owners who are not at elevated risk of
misusing their firearm. Now that’s not to say
that these laws are dry and bipartisan support
across the board. In fact, they’re the topic of
a lot of political conflict. My home state of Colorado, for
example, half of the sheriffs have said that they
have registered some sort of objection to
that state’s new ERPO law, including saying that
they won’t enforce it. So they’re still–
their objections are both constitutional
objections and objections on the practical
implementation side of things. OK. So besides this political
and historical context, I think it’s important
to understand ERPOs in the context of
evidence-based policymaking. So that’s something that we
at Duke care a lot about. And I think Professor
Swanson is going to tell you more
about what that means and how you contribute to it. But ideally, you want a
strong evidentiary base for your public policy. You don’t want to just
curtail people’s liberty without having some
reasonable expectation that it’s going to produce
some societal good. But gun regulations have
been historically really hard to evaluate. So how do we know if
a background check that works to
prevent gun violence, or pick your policy tool. And they’re hard to evaluate
for a bunch of reasons. It’s hard to randomly assigned
people to be subject to the law and not be subject
to the law and then measure the difference. Laws don’t work that way, right? So it’s hard to do these
experiments that we would like. There are very few natural
experiments where states might, for example, similarly
situated states might phase in their
laws at different points in time so you can look at
the difference in the impact. Those are very rare
opportunities to do research. We also have the problem that
states that have weak gun laws can undermine states that
have strong gun laws. So this is where you hear
that Chicago has all this gun violence since that just proves
that Chicago gun ban didn’t work. And then the rejoinder
is, well, guns can flow in from Indiana which
has relatively weak laws. And then there’s
lots of things that go into whether someone
takes his or her own life, or does a mass shooting, or
commits some other sort of gun violence. So there’s lots of confounding
factors that are hard to net out when you’re trying to
assess whether a law works. But thanks to Professor
Swanson, primarily, and some of his colleagues,
there was good research on a couple of the
early ERPO laws. And Professor Swanson’s
going to talk about that. Equally important, I
think, for the development and, as Mr. Charles
mentioned, the rapid diffusion of these laws in recent
years is that there was a group of people who
decided to make this happen. So in political
science terms, we would say we have a policy
entrepreneur, somebody who thought these were
really promising laws and was willing to
organize around them. There was a funder who
was willing to foot the expense for trying to
build out this area of law. And there was a research
institution that could help develop these ideas. So in 2013, a bunch of experts
supported by these other actors came together and
held a consortium for risk-based firearm policy. And Professor Swanson was a part
of that and may talk about it. It was a project of
an organization called the Educational Fund to Stop Gun
Violence, which is interesting, because that is a national
gun control group that started in the mid-’70s with the goal
of banning handguns nationwide. So just the fact that
this organization turned toward evidence-based
policymaking and this more moderate but highly
leveraged policy tool itself kind of illustrates
what I was mentioning earlier about this kind
of strategic turn. The goals of this
consortium, and I’ll let professor Swanson
tell you more about it, were really twofold
to bring evidence to bear in designing
policy and to orient policy tools around demonstrated risk
of committing violence instead of just being in a
category of people who have a certain type of diagnosis. Right. So they were looking
at individual people and whether they
are demonstrating an elevated risk of actually
committing violence, so looking at the
individual, not the group. Right. So beyond that, I
think ERPOs represent a slight shift in strategy for
gun violence prevention groups. And that is a
strategy that’s really trying to improve the
implementation of gun laws. So those of you who
take political science or public policy know that the
legislatures pass laws but then the executive
branch, whether it’s at the state or
federal level, they have to implement those laws. They have to give those
laws meaning on the ground. And we also know that laws can
be implemented really unevenly. There might be a
law on the books. But if nobody’s following
up, if the police aren’t confiscating the
weapons or courts aren’t ordering them confiscated,
the law can be meaningless. I looked at gun control
for about 20 years. And I think it
took me a long time to realize that
implementation is a pretty big gap in
our system of laws, that they’re pretty uneven. And they have not– and
implementation has not traditionally been a focus of
gun violence prevention groups. They’ve been really focused
on getting laws passed but then not so much on seeing
that they’re executed well. There’s a big shift
now with ERPOs. So in Illinois, the
state gun control group there is literally going court
to court across the state trying to ensure
simple things like do the judges have
the right paperwork to be able to
execute these orders. At the national
level, the Ed Fund, the group that I
mentioned earlier, is working on training
law enforcement, and social workers, and mental
health professionals, suicide prevention counselors, other
intermediary people who might be really helpful
in getting the word out that these laws are available. And these national
groups are also trying to highlight
best practices. So Seattle has brought together
local and county prosecutors and law enforcement
around a joint statement in support of these laws. Prosecutors are trained
in how to walk people through the process in court,
and follow up, and make sure that the firearms
have been removed. Los Angeles is
providing another model. So they’re trying to
demonstrate best practices and basically get the word out
that these tools are available. So Mr. Charles mentioned the
rapid increase in these laws. And we’re in a situation where
they’re building the plane while flying it, that cliche. So you’ve got a bunch of new
states that are coming online. And systems have to be put
into place on the ground so that police actually
know what to do. They have to know these
laws are available. Individuals, where they
could be petitioning, need to know that this is a
tool that’s available to them. So I will close
by saying I think there are going to be challenges
to these laws having meaning. And the challenge is
along three fronts. So one, I’ve sort of alluded
to, which is awareness. So law enforcement officers
don’t necessarily know about every new law that’s
passed by the legislature or even how to implement it. So law enforcement and
everyday individuals who might be living
with somebody who’s at risk and could be a good
candidate for an ERPO. Public awareness
is one challenge. And then systems
and routines, just getting just that
technical stuff on the ground of
organizing, getting the forms in place, the
protocols, the computer software to facilitate the
implementation of these laws is a challenge. And finally, there’s
a political challenge. I mean there is resistance. I mentioned Colorado,
but this resistance among mainly rural sheriffs
extends beyond that state to a number of others. So the laws are only
as effective as they are implemented well. And I think politics is
still, like everything else, going to be a challenge. So I hope that’s a
helpful overview. JEFFREY SWANSON: OK. Thank you. Good evening. And so thank you all for coming. I am going to talk about
our research findings evaluating ERPO laws and
why I think they matter. First, I’d like to acknowledge
Professor Michelle Easter who’s in the audience here
and is a co-investigator on the research I’m
going to describe and a co-author
of the two papers in which we reported
these results. So I think that was a
very helpful overview. As I think about the
research and trying to address this problem
of where it fits in, I think of gun violence
prevention in our country as kind of a big jigsaw puzzle
with a lot of pieces in it. And the puzzle we have
in the United States is a little different than it
might be in another country, because other countries
might look at this issue, and look at this very lethal
technology of firearms that could easily kill people and
say, we’re going to broadly limit legal access to
guns, because it’s just too dangerous to have people
walk around with guns. And we actually can’t
do that in our country. We can’t say the
default is people don’t have the
right to have a gun and we’ll make a few
exceptions out on the margins. Given the way that our
United States Supreme Court has interpreted the Second
Amendment of the Constitution, the default is that people do
have a right to have a firearm and then we make exceptions
on the margins for who can have a gun. That’s a different
way of doing them. And what it means is that
since we can’t broadly limit legal access
to guns, we have to figure out who are the
people who shouldn’t have one. And one way of
thinking about that is who are people who pose
a risk of harming others or themselves with a firearm. And the traditional
way of doing that is to think about
categories of people that we would say at the point
of sale you can’t buy guns. So people who have a felony
criminal background or people who, on the mental
health side, have a history of involuntary
commitment, or they’ve been found to be
legally incompetent, or, in a criminal
matter, not guilty by reason of insanity or
incompetent to stand trial. The problem with that
is that those categories are about groups of people. They’re not so much
about individuals. And as they’re
implemented it turns out that they’re a little bit
too broad and too narrow at the same time. Those categories tend to
prohibit lots of people from purchasing a firearm
who actually aren’t dangerous and probably won’t harm anybody. For example, somebody
who might have been involuntarily committed
to a hospital 25 years ago. And at the same time, in
addition to being too broad, they’re too narrow. There are lots of
people who actually do pose a risk of harming
others or themselves. And they’re not prohibited. They could pass a
background check. They don’t have any
disqualifying record. And that’s kind of
where ERPOs come in, because in a country where
we have a lot of firearms, and the right to own them is
constitutionally protected, and guns are embedded in
our culture, not going away, we need to try to figure out
who are the dangerous people who pose such a high risk that
it is justified to limit their constitutional
right to have a gun with due process the way
that Mr. Charles has described. So that’s the little
piece in the puzzle. We’ve spent a lot of
time in our country over the past several decades
focusing on this point of sale categorical restriction. But it turns out if you
think about gun violence and firearm-related injury and
mortality as a public health problem that claims the lives
of 40,000 people every single year– that’s 100 people every day. So on the day that we have
one of these horrifying mass casualty shootings,
and we focus on that. And that really seeps into
our national consciousness and our public conversation
because it’s so terrifying. It’s so irrational. And we want to know
what the answer is. On that same day, all around
the country, 100 other people died as a result of a gunshot. We don’t hear about them. We don’t hear about them. Those are people who die in
domestic violence incidents, or gang shootings, or escalating
arguments between two young men who have a firearm. And so if you think about
it that way, almost 2/3 of the firearm-related
injuries in our country are suicides, people who
die at their own hand. And many, many of those people– one estimate from
[INAUDIBLE] said 72% of people who are
gun suicide decedents could legally purchase a
gun on the day they used one to end their life. A lot of people in that category
who are people– individuals like that, there’s information
that people have around them that they are in trouble,
that they pose a risk. So to think about
where these laws came from within that perspective,
the first two states, as you’ve heard, to enact
a risk-based time limited, civil court-ordered
law to remove guns gives the police
these clear legal authority to take guns away from
people based on risk were Connecticut in 1999
and Indiana in 2006. Both of them, as is
the case with most of the other of these
laws, were enacted as a legislative response
to public outrage over a mass shooting. In 1998, there was a horrific
shooting at the Connecticut State lottery headquarters. People demanded
something be done. And the legislature
responded with this law. Interestingly, you often
hear after a mass shooting these voices in the
public square that say it’s about mental illness. It’s not the guns. Let’s fix mental health. And with this particular law,
the mental health stakeholders came to the table in discussing
how this statute should be drafted and said we don’t
want to make this about mental illness per se. I mean, there are tens
of millions of people with mental illness out
there in the country. And the overwhelming
majority of them don’t pose a risk to anybody. They’re not violent
towards others. Let’s have this being about
risk and behavioral indicators of risk. So probable cause
that someone poses a risk of harming
others of themselves. And two police
officers agree on that. And they run it by
a state’s attorney. And then a judge issues this
ex parte order in real time to secure those guns and
make that person safe. And then two weeks later,
according to the Connecticut statute, there’s a hearing where
the person has the opportunity to present their side of it. And then at that point, by
clear convincing evidence, the judge has to find
the person poses a risk. And Connecticut passed that law. And not much happened
for several years apropos of your comment
about implementation. Just pass a law doesn’t
necessarily do anything. But after the shooting
at Virginia Tech in 2007, the use of the law started
to ramp up every year. And so that quite a lot
of cases after the police figured out how to use this,
people start to learn about it. And it turned out, and I’ll
mention this in a minute, that even though it was
passed as an attempt to do something about
violence against other people, as it was used about
2/3 of the cases, it was used when there’s
a suicide concern. This could be like
a family member. You know, we’re really
worried about granddad who has all these guns. He’s all by himself. He’s bereaved. He’s depressed. He’s drinking heavily. And he doesn’t want
to give up his guns. What do we do? Well, you, know if you
live in 30 or some states around the country,
there’s nothing you can do. If granddad doesn’t
have a criminal record, and he’s not been found to
be mentally incompetent, and he’s not accused of a crime. But in Connecticut after
this law was passed, there is something you could do. And you could reach
out to law enforcement. They can look into it. They can investigate it,
get this risk warrant, take granddad’s guns away. And it turns out that with
regard to suicide, if people try to end their own life,
if they use anything else, they’re very likely to survive. About 90% of people
survive suicide attempts. But what I just said is true
with one major exception. And that’s if you use a gun,
people almost never survive. They don’t get
that second chance. And so that is a really good
public health opportunity. So in Connecticut, it
turned out that that was the major use of the law. Indiana, a few years later– and it’s interesting that those
two states were the first two. I mean, they’re very
different states. One’s a red state. One’s a blue state, you know? And one state has
a much higher– Connecticut has much lower
household gun ownership rate, and stricter gun laws, and
lower rate of gun fatalities than Indiana does. And Democrats are in charge
with both chambers of the state legislature in Connecticut. And in Indiana, the Republicans
have a supermajority. Notwithstanding
those differences, they focused on this
problem in the same way and said this is a
tool that we need. And Indiana was a
little bit different. The case that precipitated
this was a shooting of a very popular police officer
by the name of Jake Laird. And what happened there
was that the police had detained and transported
a man with schizophrenia. And he was in a
mental health crisis. And they had taken
his guns away. He had guns. But that incident did not
result in a gun disqualifying involuntary commitment. This individual was held in a
short term involuntary hold. He was evaluated. He was treated. And then he was released. But he didn’t actually get
a court-ordered involuntary commitment. So he did not become
a prohibited person. A few months passed. And he’s in another crisis. And the police are called again. And this man to whom they
had returned the guns opened fire and killed Officer
Laird, and another police officer, and
injured another one. And the way this was
presented to the public is there is a loophole
in this law that forced the Indianapolis
police to give guns back to a man with schizophrenia. It resonated with
what people believe about people with mental
illness, which is actually not true. But that is part of
the impetus of the law. But in Indiana, just
as in Connecticut, most of the time this law
has been used where there’s a concern about suicide. And just a few things about
what we found in our evaluation. We looked at all of these
cases over a period of years. And in Connecticut, we
found, first of all, it was mostly men, but
across the age spectrum. The number of firearms
removed in each case, on average, seven
guns per person. So these are people
who have a lot of guns. Another we found was that when
we looked several years out into the future, matched the
records of these individuals with death records, and we saw
whether the person had deceased and, if so, was it a
suicide, and, if so, was a gun used, that the
prevalence of suicide was incredibly high. It was actually 40 times higher
than the general population rate of suicide in Connecticut. And it turned out that
only a handful of those suicides that we found in these
records were with firearms. And none of those
happened during the year when the firearms had been
retained by the police. They all happened
after the person became eligible to
get their guns back. It’s very important,
I think, that we found this incredibly high rate
of suicide in this population, because it shows that the
law is not being just applied willy nilly to everybody. It’s being targeted
to a very high risk group of individuals
who actually need some intervention. And I think that’s important
legally and probably politically as well. What we then did, and this
is apropos of your comment that Professor Goss mentioned
it’s hard to study this. And what we were
able to do, though, is to say given that we know
what the case fatality rate is for pretty much every
method of suicide, we’ve got that information
for the whole country. and for Connecticut, we know if
someone uses a drug overdose, or they use a rope
or something else to try to end their life,
what’s the chance they’re going to survive. And so by looking at
the methods of suicide, we were able to just
with a little algebra figure out how
many attempts there would have been to produce
that distribution of suicide by those methods. And once we had that
estimate, then we introduced a counterfactual,
sort of a what if. What if the guns had
not been taken away? And that person
who had seven guns, instead of using another method
that was much more survivable, had used a firearm. How many more people
would have died? And the answer was a certain
number of lives saved. And then you divide the total
number of gun removal actions. And you ask yourself, how
many gun removal actions do you have to have
to save one life? And the answer is
about 10 to 20. We got the same answer in
Connecticut and Indiana. So that’s kind of the answer. And that’s the
kind of information we want to put in the hands of
lawmakers like Representative Morey and say this is what’s in
the balance of risk and rights. And it kind of invites the
question, is that high or low? Well, it might depend on
where you’re standing. If you’re someone who just cares
more about the Second Amendment right than anything else, you
might say that’s unacceptable. But if you’re someone
like me, if you have a one, or two, or
maybe three suicides in your own extended family,
you might think about it differently. And I think that’s the thing
is none of us is more than one or two degrees of separation
away from a gun violence story whether it’s suicide
or something else. And in that case, I think we
can come to the conclusion that maybe this is an
acceptable kind of approach. And it’s one that people can
actually do something about. And once we have these laws in
place, if they’re scaled up, and everybody knows
about them, then if you happen to be the
neighbor of, say, Craig Stephen Hicks if you recall that
incident in Chapel Hill a few years ago where this
man was very angry and scary. And people knew that
about him. and he legally owned a small arsenal of guns. And then he shot three
young people in the head. It was an awful, awful incident. But if that was
your neighbor, there would be something you could do. And we have anecdotal
evidence now percolating up from some of the states that
have enacted ERPOs that suggest that there have been a
small number of cases where a person has been
intending to carry out a mass shooting and
the ERPO process, or as it’s been called
in California the gun violence restraining order,
has identified that person and enabled that person to
have their guns removed. And California, by the
way, 2014 was the first of the whole new series
of laws that really followed the model
of the Consortium for risk-based firearm policy. And one of our
recommendations, we developed this
kind of model look was to have family members
be able to directly petition. And that was enacted
in California. Again, the story there
after the horrific shooting in Isla Vista, California where
this man named Elliot Rodger, his family had been
concerned about him. And they actually
had called the police and asked the police to do a
welfare check on Mr. Rodger. But he didn’t meet the
criteria to be transported for a mental health
evaluation, or I think they had to let him be. But if they had had a gun
violence restraining order or ERPO law in place, they
could have actually– would give them the authority to
search for and remove the guns. And that might have had a
much less tragic ending. So you know, we have
implementation challenges. You know, as Professor
Goss has mentioned, just passing that new law,
and 17 states now have these new laws, doesn’t mean
that there’s automatically going to be a big change. And I think what we need to
do is to do a lot of research as we go forward, use
each of these states as kind of a laboratory
to ask the question, how is this going to work? What needs to be in place? What’s the role of,
say, prosecutors? What’s the role
of family members? And should clinicians
have some role? How do we think about
confidentiality, all these kinds of things. And we have this conversation
between evidence-based policy and policy-informed research. So we as researchers
are actually doing research and
asking questions that matter we do a
lot of things sometimes that are interesting to us
that the answer doesn’t matter. But we want to do research
that really does matter. And that’s, I think,
what’s exciting about being an applied social
scientist, and working in this interdisciplinary space,
and having the opportunity to have a conversation with
lawmakers like Representative Morey. Thank you. MARCIA MOREY: Hey, everyone. I’m Marcia Morey. And I’m going to bring
it down from academics into just everyday
what I’ve seen and why I got so involved
in presenting this bill to the General Assembly
two years in a row and let you know
where it’s gone. So I’ve sat in the courtroom
just about two miles from here in Durham and did criminal
court, and general court, and first appearances,
and, in fact, did the first appearance
of Craig Hicks the day after he killed
three UNC students. And it was chilling. No emotion. No expression. Charged with three murders. And to see the
community in grief over the loss of these three
young people was just amazing. But that was only one case
that happened frequently. Over my 18 years, just in
Durham alone, on an average, 30 people died in homicide. That’s over 580 cases. I probably did a lot of
the first appearances. And sitting in a juvenile
court as a judge when the 14-year-old doesn’t
show up because he was killed the night before. And then I have a
15-year-old in court two days later
because he’s charged with murdering the 14-year-old. And then to have a hearing if
he should be able to go home. And the mother takes
the witness stand, says I knew this
was going to happen. I knew this was going to happen. He was enraged. Sure, he had a gun. I knew this was going to happen. I couldn’t get any help. And hearing that in our court
system time and time again. And multiply the 580
deaths times probably eight for serious wounds from
gunshots, for gang-related, for DVPO. I sat in domestic
violence court. And I can’t tell you
the number of times we granted a domestic
violence protective order. And if the, usually
the woman, would say and he has access to a black
gun, do you know where it is? Yeah, well, I don’t
know where it is, but if that was evidence,
we would say the sheriff, it can be surrendered. Well, our laws on
domestic violence, they’d go to the defendant and
serve the domestic violence protective order
and you stay away. And by the way, if
you have any guns, surrender them to the
sheriff in 24 hours. It’s like, well, I don’t
want to surrender them. So there’s no teeth
in the law at all. And then three months
later to find out she had been killed by her
husband with a gun. So it became very personal
to see these families, to see what was happening. And I left being a judge on a
Thursday back in May of 2017. And on a Monday, I’m
sitting in the next back row at the General Assembly,
a member of a minority. We had a supermajority
Republican, member of the minority, with
no power, no black robe, nothing except
trying to speak truth to things we saw coming up. So go forward from
sitting in that chamber until February 14, 2018
when Parkland happened on Valentine’s Day when 17 young
people were killed in Parkland. And the grief– do you
all remember Parkland? And what happened
after Parkland that was different than Sandy
Hook, or than Columbine, or what happened? It was the youth. It was the students
that were enraged, that were outraged,
that lawmakers, you must do something. And over at UNC, just a
few days after Parkland, there were thousands
out on the quad at UNC protesting, demanding
we do something. That very next week,
I introduced an ERPO for North Carolina. And it made the front
page of the paper. New legislature, former
judge introduces ERPO. We had a press
conference responding to the demand of young
people across this country. It is time to stop the
violence and doing this. So we got a lot of press. And I also got I can’t tell
you how many threats of death myself. That outrage of people. How dare you deprive
me of my liberty? You take my gun? How dare you? I’ll show you with
enough lead in you to bury you under
the General Assembly. I had to have Capitol
police watch me and the Durham sheriff watch my
house because of the outrage. How dare you introduce
a common sense law to try to curb gun violence? Well, it only emboldened me. And we had presented the bill. And if you’re not
in the majority, you have no control of what
bills get heard in committee and what doesn’t. As you can imagine, my
bill was never heard. So the next thing in
the rulebook we had is a discharge petition. All the Democrats signed
the discharge petition to force it out of a committee
onto the House floor. All I want is let’s debate this. Let’s put people on record. Let’s talk about what’s
happening in our communities. Let’s listen to the
millions of young people in this country
say do something. ERPOs were really– I read about it in
the National Journal. A conservative proposed–
and that was it, the byline. A conservative proposal
to stop mass shootings and excessive gun violence. It was their idea. It went nowhere. And so what did we do this year? Once again, introduced
the ERPO, same thing, and especially to help people
of domestic violence to come in, say order the removal
of the gun temporarily. And the criticism
is you can’t take that gun without due process. Well, I contend as
a judge there is due process that’s guaranteed. And if someone has to come in,
and swear, and sign a petition and give me facts as a judge,
this is the kind of gun, this is the threat I’ve had,
this is the behavior I’ve seen, and I as a judge could
order a temporary removal until they get notice, not more
than 10 days, come into court. Everyone is heard. And really the
price someone pays to have their gun temporarily
removed for up to 10 days and they may get it back if,
once again, the judge doesn’t find hearing every side
that this should be granted, is that really a
lack of due process? Anytime someone’s arrested,
they haven’t been found guilty. You’re presumed
innocent, but we still arrest people and
put them in jail, require them to set a bond. They have not been found guilty. Is that denial of due process? No. It isn’t. So my assertion these ERPOs
very much follow the law. They follow a due process, that
community safety and people safety trumps the
ability to own a gun. We get into the Second
Amendment debate all the time. I think it’s been
misinterpreted, misread. I think it was applying
to the militia, not to unlimited gun ownership. But we have had court cases,
you know, Heller versus DC where they tried to ban handguns. And the court was very clear. There is a constitutional
right to own a gun, but no constitutional
right is limitless. You can regulate aspects
of it because human life is more important than, I
think, gun ownership rights. I’ll show you what we did. And you will not be impressed
in this day and age. But in the General
Assembly, we have to use little poster boards. So the first time we entered the
extreme risk protect, we said, why are we doing this? This was back right
after Parkland. There were 100 mass
shootings within the five months of Parkland. There were 22 in the
first five months of 2018 of killings
and just that. At that time, nine states
had passed red flag laws. Well, then we came back. We reintroduced
it the next year. So we updated every
press conference. It’s gone from 100 to 303. Four months later, it was
370 to show how it’s gone up, and to show also we’re
now up to 16 states– 17 states. Andy’s– See, I’m
old on this now. But every time we’d put this up. And this is where North
Carolina is not listening. We’re doing nothing. More shootings. More killings. But coming from a
courthouse, coming from watching hundreds of people
affected by gun violence– I sat on a panel
with Lori Alhadeff. Her daughter was the first
one shot at Parkland. She talked about the
horror of not knowing, the hours and hours
of waiting to see if her daughter would be coming
out, her friends running out. Where’s my daughter? Where’s my daughter? And she would have
survived until the shooter, the last time, the
last shot, he went back and put the fatal
bullet in her head. And to see someone who has been
so intimately and irrevocably involved, who’s now
campaigning going throughout the country
talking about this is what happened to my
daughter, why can’t common sense legislation be passed? So this is it. North Carolina has done nothing. We’ve again done
discharge petitions. But after a month ago– do you remember El
Paso and Cleveland? They kind of all run
together, don’t they? What’s the latest one? El Paso and Cleveland. Five Republicans
came to my office finally, because
the president was giving some indication
on background checks he might be amenable to. And also for 24 hours, he said
I think we need red flag laws. And that gave them permission
to come into my office and say, Marcia, let’s look at your bill. We don’t like that. We like the Indiana model. It’s much more limited. But that was the
first conversation in over a year that they
started taking it seriously. And I guarantee you in North
Carolina in the next days, or weeks, or months when
it’s going to happen here, it’s going to be too
late for us to act. But I think that
is what it’s going to take, for something to
happen in North Carolina for us finally to do something
that really can save lives. The conversations I had
with the Republicans was kind of like what
Jeff was saying that, well, let’s look at it
through the mental illness. And I’m very much we can not
tag mentally ill equating that with violence. Otherwise, you know, why don’t
we let all the 9/11 hijackers off the hook as mentally ill? They weren’t trying to
bomb the twin towers. But we can’t equate mental
illness with this problem. So I’m glad you all are here. I hope the youth of this,
country the college students, demand change and it
happens, because that is the movement we need. Otherwise, we will
just keep going on until the final mass
shooting will happen when people start to act. And that day is coming. Thank you. JAKE CHARLES: All right. So thank you to all of you. Really illuminating
discussion so far. I’ve got one question to kick
it off and then I’ll open it up if anyone out there
has questions. I have many that I could ask
if there aren’t any questions from the audience. So first to Representative
Morey, one type of critique that you often hear about these
laws is that they remove guns from the situation, but then
they just leave the person alone. And it’s a person
that a court has found is dangerous to
themselves or others. And all they’re doing is going,
and taking away the guns, and saying, all right, you go
back and live in the community. Is that a problem
from your perspective? And is that how
you see these laws? MARCIA MOREY: Well, I
think that’s one thing to take into consideration. And I’m also aware the
suicide issue is bigger really than the homicide issue. I have had many
people that say they have an elderly
parent/grandparent with dementia. There are guns in the house. They have no idea
how to get them out. So that with also we do have
the involuntary commitments. I mean if it is someone that
is a danger to themselves or others and with access
to a gun, you do two parts. You remove the guns. People go. They might be committed. Most people that get
committed involuntarily at Duke or somewhere else, they
release them within three days, or, if not, they release
them with medicine. You still want to make
sure if that’s happening that gun has been removed. So I think they
complement each other. JEFFREY SWANSON:
Just to add to that from our research in
Connecticut and Indiana, what we found is that, in
the majority of cases when the police go out to serve
the risk warrant it’s called in Connecticut, they find a
person in some kind of crisis and, most of the time, don’t
just leave that person there. They actually transport them. In 55% of the cases
in Connecticut and over 60% of the
cases in Indiana, transported that individual to
a hospital emergency department for evaluation. And as a result of that,
indirectly, in Connecticut anyway, when we matched the
records to records of treatment in the public behavioral
health system, we found that the percentage
of those individuals who’d been respondents
to a risk warrant and a gun removal,
the percentage of them who were receiving some kind
of outpatient mental health care in the community
doubled from the year before to the year after. So it went from 12% to 24%. So my way of looking at that
is that gun removal action became a portal into
getting some help. So that can happen. It’s not written into the law. We already have,
as you’ve implied, involuntary commitment,
and treatment law, And outpatient commitment. But it is the case that police
in their role of keeping people safe don’t just leave someone in
a suicidal crisis, for example. At least we didn’t
find that empirically. JAKE CHARLES: Great. Thank you. So now I’ll open it up if
there are any questions for any of the panel members. AUDIENCE: My name
is Alanna Miller. I’m really involved with
Every Town for Gun Safety so I’ve been seeing the gun
violence prevention movement from the grassroots side. And my question is
to Professor Goss. I think you’re critic
of the movement is right in that we do focus a
lot on getting that law passed and not so much on
implementation, especially in the states where
it already is passed. So my question is
what strategies do you see as being effective
to increase awareness or just have better
implementation in general? KRISTIN GOSS: Yeah. I mean that’s– I think
that’s a great question. I think some of the strategies
that are already being used are really hopeful. So the bigger picture
before Moms Demand, and Students Demand Action,
and Every Town organized, the gun violence prevention
groups on the state or local level were pretty thin. They were pretty
under-resourced. They were mostly volunteers. They were people
who didn’t have– they maybe had a lot
of learned expertise. But like a lot of
volunteer groups, they didn’t have
a lot of capacity. And so they could
focus on getting the law passed, but
know implementation is often very decentralized. It’s police forces. It’s sheriffs. It’s courts. Right. I think that the new
amount of organizing, and the number of new groups,
and the amount of resources that’s going into
the movement now is being dispersed across
the states and localities so there’s just a
lot more capacity to do this kind of person
to person kind of work. And I think the models
are still being developed. Right. So as a political
scientist, I think a lot about the role of
elites and intermediaries. So disseminating the
word from the top down is probably going to
be more effective. So find those key
stakeholders who are key positions in the
system, and train them, and allow them to disseminate
the messages in a more decentralized way. Representative Morey
and Professor Swanson might have some better ideas. They’re probably a little closer
to the implementation side than I am. MARCIA MOREY: Thanks
for doing that. Students Demand Action,
March For Our Lives, I mean we have rallies all
the time and we go speak. And it is starting
conversations. A lot of the youth
have come over. And they’ll wait outside. And they’ll talk
to the leadership. And the more that come,
the more they listen. I mean some have been filming. And one Republican legislator
where the Students Demand Action went in, and
they took their phone, and started filming. And she said, oh,
you young people, you don’t even know
what your pronouns are. How would you know anything
about gun violence? It was like so dismissive. But this is an issue
that people care about. This is an issue. You’re going to take time. You’re going to come. You’re going to write. Hopefully, we’re going to
get some hearings coming up. We’re going to get this passed. But it also takes the
groundswell of support of you all to help push it through. JEFFREY SWANSON: Let
me just add to that. I was part of something called
an ERPO summit at Johns Hopkins a couple of months ago. And it was a gathering
of people from all over the country
representing most of the states in which an
ERPO law has been passed. And there’s some
effort to implement it. And it was a whole day
of sharing information. They were people from
law enforcement, judges. And there were people from
the mental health community and from the advocacy
group community. What I took away
from it is that there is an important role for
deliberate implementation action using what we know
about how innovations get disseminated from
implementation sites, whether it’s in health
care innovations, or public policy innovations. And thinking about
that, there isn’t one solution for every state
for every jurisdiction. Some states have local
solutions that they come up with that make sense for them. There is a role for
all kinds of education, formal education
efforts where you have materials, and
webinars, and podcasts that are focused on
particular stakeholder groups like police– what’s the role of
law enforcement? And what do you do– and the courts, and family
members so people not only know about it but
they know what to do. And then there is
actually a role too, I think, for recognizing
that this takes some investment of resources. Right. There needs to be some
developmental infrastructure. You know, if you go to a local
municipal police department and they don’t have
very many officers, and they have to devote
some resources to implement these things, and they
have other things to do, they may not be able
to afford to do it. Then there’s the
question of where are we going to
store these guns, you things like the
practical things. So the role, I think, of
the federal legislation to incentivize states
by providing grants from the Department of Justice
to help states to do this, develop the
infrastructure, as well as to say, yeah, once
you have this in place and you start using that,
and you have people who have their guns
removed, let’s make sure that we create a
federal gun prohibiter in the national check system
so they can’t just go, as we’ve said, to another
state and get a gun. So those are things
that are happening and that are
organizational efforts. And the final thing
that’s really important, and it was so clear
listening to these folks from around the
country is the role of a local champion, someone
who really believes in this, and is influential, and isn’t
just giving a speech about it and going away but is
actually there on the ground. And you have to incentivize
people who are actually doing it, not just
the administrator who says, hey, this is a good
idea, put this policy in place. But the local law
enforcement actually see this as an important
tool, that it’s going to help them in their role
of solving problems and keeping people safe. So it isn’t just one thing. But it’s this whole matrix
of things that are important. And there is the twin challenge
of once you have a law, how do you get it going to start with? That was Connecticut’s problem. And the second one is
once you do have it going, how do you sustain it over time? That was Indiana’s problem. And both of those
things are important. JAKE CHARLES: Thank you. Thanks for the question. Anyone else have questions? AUDIENCE: Hi. My name is Carly. I’m from Parkland, Florida,
so a lot of these issues have a lot of personal
meaning to me. My question– I know
Representative Morey mentioned how a lot of these in people
you’re encountering are 14, 15, 16-year-olds
who are starting to manage to acquire
a gun, use it, and that’s where you start to
see a lot of that violence. Do ERPO laws have any
impact on those youth being able to get
or receive a gun? It’s for anyone on the panel. JEFFREY SWANSON: Well, I’ll
jump in with one answer. So the question of
youth access to guns is a little sideways from ERPOs,
because young people aren’t supposed to have guns anyway. They aren’t supposed be
able to go buy a gun. There’s a minimum age
standard for buying one. On the other hand, there
are a lot of guns out there. And they have access to
guns sometimes in the home and are able to
get guns otherwise in the secondary market or the
illegal gun market sometimes. So two examples from our
study in Connecticut– two cases where a risk
order was petitioned for it and was actually
served and processed, the person concerned was a
minor, was a young person. But they lived in a home where
there were unsecured guns. And so that is the situation. And that’s actually– you
think about Sandy Hook, that was the situation with
Adam Lanza is that he was the person who was risky. But he lived in a home
where there were guns. And there were two
judges actually that we interviewed anonymously
as part of our key informant interview process. And they differed
on the opinion about whether that was an
appropriate use of it. One said that’s really not
how you take an adult’s gun rights away because someone
else in the house is risky. If that’s the issue, it should
be a child welfare issue, not the use of it. But another judge
disagreed, thought that’s a perfectly
good way to do this. If the adults in the house
are irresponsible enough not to secure those guns
and there’s a teenager, then we can do that. So I think that’s maybe
an interesting question. It’s a little bit unsettled. But the question of age
as a risk factor in how you think about that
whole transition is something we’re studying in
another project I can tell you about as well. JAKE CHARLES: There’s some
early research coming out of California where they’ve
been combing the records and looking at the
circumstances in which the gun violence restraining
orders have been used. And there are a
number of examples where the juvenile is
the person demonstrating some sort of threats. And the GBROs are applying
to the parents’ firearms. So they’re taking lawfully
owned firearms out of the home for a year or
so because the youth is posing a danger. JEFFREY SWANSON: [INAUDIBLE]. JAKE CHARLES: Thanks, Carly. Any questions? AUDIENCE: Yeah. So thank you so
much for coming out. So I work with an organization
called North Carolinians Against Gun Violence. And I also grew up in a small
town in Kentucky called Hazard. There was a population
about maybe 1,000 people. My family owned guns. I continue to own guns. Everyone in my
community owned guns. And what I can tell
you from experience is that it’s not that these
issues that we’re talking about are objectively true. Right. That it’s objectively
true that having ERPOs reduces the likelihood
of people who are at risk getting firearms. We’re not– we don’t need
to convince ourselves. Right. And having grown up around
these kind of people– and I know you guys are
too nice to say this, but they’re deluded. You have people who are willing
to say that Parkland and Sandy Hook were hoaxes. They’re media hoaxes. And I know people who say this. They’re not people who are
randos on the internet. And this is the narrative
that they frame. These guys are saying ERPOs
will make sure that Adam Lanza– and I can’t remember the
rest of their names– but all these mass shooters
are never going to get guns. Well, hey, this was fake anyway. Like look at this crazy stuff
that they’re trying to pull. Right. It’s a corner that you
almost can’t use logic to argue someone out of. Right. It’s a really, really
deep seated delusion. And you know, it’s crazy that
it’s no longer the NRA that’s the problem, because the NRA
almost agrees beat by beat with each of the things we
just talked about with ERPOs. They talk about how people
should be punished if there’s frivolous claims of ERPOs. All the things that you
guys are proposing that need to be part of
ERPOs, they back. But it’s gotten to
the point that it’s not the issue that there’s these
organizations like the NRA. There’s a sort of consciousness
around all these people that it’s deny, deny,
deny any evidence. And then once any sort of– once, as tragically as
Representative Morey said, if this happens in
North Carolina, sometimes that’s not even enough right. And that’s terrible. Like you can’t– if that’s
not even going to work, like there needs to be some
sort of way that we address this issue of public opinion. So I just want to know what
are your thoughts on how the rhetoric about gun violence
and any sort of gun laws– it’s reached this
really toxic place. So what are your thoughts on
that, anybody who can answer. MARCIA MOREY: You’re
right about the rhetoric. I mean my coming
out with the ERPO is like, she wants to
take away all your guns. No, I don’t. I mean, I came from a
family some were NRA. And they had guns all over. And it’s like, no, it has
nothing to do with it. But you’re absolutely right. The social media. And it feeds– they put my
picture on guns and ammo, some national publication. It came out. And then it was like
reimposed other places. How do you control
that narrative? You can’t unless you
stay informed and try and get the facts out. JEFFREY SWANSON: Right. So I would say this. You hear these extreme
reactions, you know kind of a– that the shrill
voice that may not represent the large proportion
of people who are in the middle and are not making
their views known. And so if you look
at what’s happening in these echo chambers of
extreme gun rights rhetoric, I think, yes, that’s of concern. But I also don’t think we
should generalize and think that represents
everybody, because we have objective evidence
from national polling data that show that large
majorities of gun owners actually support sensible
gun laws, including ERPOs, and actually don’t see it as
an expansion of gun control. They don’t see it
as something that affects a law abiding
gun owner who is using it for a legitimate purpose. They see it as even if
they believe, well, guns don’t kill people,
people kill people, here’s a law, a
tool, that helps you identify who those people are. And you know, if
you were to just ask someone do you think
that someone who’s manifestly at high risk of
harming himself, or herself, or someone else should
have legal access to a gun at that time,
not forever, people are going to say, no,
they shouldn’t have access to a gun at that time. People across the
spectrum, even people who would disagree with each
other on Gun Control, capital G, capital C, on the politics
of that agree with this. And that, I think,
provides a kind of a common swath of real
estate where we can stand there and say, OK, let’s start here. And maybe that will help to
bridge the gap between people who say, broadly limit guns,
take away guns, and people who say, it’s not about
the guns but the people. So I’m actually hopeful. And I sort of have to because
I’m in this for the long haul. And hopefully our
research will outlast some of your
recalcitrant colleagues. KRISTIN GOSS: So as your
designated political scientist, I want to echo what
my interdisciplinary colleague Jeff Swanson said. So there were a lot of things
packed into that question. AUDIENCE: Sorry about that. KRISTIN GOSS: And no. So I’m going to have a
few different answers. So one, I would completely– I completely echo
what you’re saying. There’s a famous article
by a historian named Richard Hofstadter
called the paranoid style in American politics
that just traces these kinds of extreme
voices throughout history. So this is nothing– it has a new manifestation in
the kind of Sandy Hook hoaxing. But that’s happened
throughout American history. We’ve still managed
to legislate. Right. That said, I think the gun
issue has, like a lot of issues, has become much better
sorted along partisan lines. And it’s reinforced
by social identities. So there’s work
that is not my work but other political
scientists who are showing that our social
identities are becoming more correlated with one another. And they’re being grafted
onto the partisan division. So there’s the people who drive
Prius’, and live on the coast, and vote for Democrats, and
want gun control over here. And then there’s the people
you describe in Kentucky. And they’re over here. And there’s nobody
bridging that gap. And they’re just
like two teams that are at odds with one another. It makes policymaking around
especially salient issues really, really difficult,
because I actually think a lot of the gun
debate is a debate about– is not a debate about policy. It’s something that’s–
it’s more of a team sport. And it’s a team sport
that gets at people’s personal identities. Right. So that makes
policymaking really hard. You know, that said, one
answer to the loud voices on the anti-ERPO side
is to have loud voices on the pro-ERPO side. There’s traditionally been–
my first book was about this– this real
organizational imbalance between the pro-gun side and
the pro-gun violence prevention side. That’s equaling out. And there’s research
by political scientists that shows that
lawmakers– in this case, they were talking about state
lawmakers– are systematically overestimating the
conservatism, including on guns, of their districts,
of their constituencies. So they look at– they ask the lawmakers. You know, do you think– what percentage of
your constituents do you think would be in
favor of background checks? And that lawmaker will
say, you know, 30%. And then they actually
look at the district polls and it’ll be like 70%. And so their answer for– and there are two studies
operating independently found the same thing. And their conclusion
is that, basically, the fact that pro-gun people
and pro-gun rights people are very loud, and
they’re very present, and they’re good citizens,
they’re very participatory, but the fact that
they are very present is causing the lawmakers
to overestimate the pro-gun leanings
of the entire district. And so I think– and then gun lawmakers
in a lot of cases are afraid that
they’re going to lose their seats because everybody’s
going to be against them. So one answer is
just to be present. So do what Moms Demand, Students
Demand, March for our Lives. These other groups
that are actually trying to mobilize at
the state and local level instead o f just
working on Congress. You know, I think
that’s one answer. You’re never going to
win over everybody. But you have to– if you want a law
like this, you have to persuade the lawmaker that
it’s safe to cast that vote. And that’s happened
with domestic violence. The NRA, as you know, sometimes
has opposed those laws, or the local gun groups. But the domestic violence people
are really well organized. They’re really well networked. They show up. And they’ve been able to get
domestic violence prohibitors strengthened in states
that are Republican states like Louisiana and Wisconsin. JEFFREY SWANSON: So just
to add one thing to that, part of it, I
think, what is hard is it is not as if we have these
two camps who are disagreeing on a common set of facts. Actually, there’s not
a common set of facts that people would look at. So you have one
side who actually believes something different. And that’s why, if you look
at the NRA convention in 2016, you had everybody running
in the Republican primary going to the NRA convention,
standing up and saying some version of,
if you elect me, I will make sure that there are
more guns in the hands of more people and more places. And so that why? So we’ll be safer. We’ll protect ourselves. This idea, this belief
that guns make people safer is entrenched. And people act on the
basis of what they believe. They would go and get
guns for that reason. So that’s a little discouraging. But on the other hand,
we have lots of examples where cultural norms– social norms do
change over time. And public health
laws have a role in making that change happen. You know, one of the
favorite examples is the controversy
over whether we should have laws to mandate
using seatbelts back in the 1960s and ’70s. And that was very controversial. People thought that
that’s an infringement of people’s liberty. And the car manufacturers
also objected to it. And you had these
anecdotes about somebody who died because they got
slung up in their seatbelt and couldn’t get out
of their burning car. And so seatbelts are bad. But the law was passed anyway. And now flash forward. Who wears a seatbelt
because there’s a law? You wear your seatbelt
because it’s just natural. And it’s now the culture
norms about that have changed. You couldn’t enforce it. I mean, you had click it
or ticket and all that, but still, there’s
been a massive change in how people just do that. And I think there needs
to be a change over time in our culture, a whole
generational change by how we think about guns, and how
we think about gun safety, and the need for a gun
to protect ourselves. And it used to be that
most people had guns for recreation, and for
sport, and for collecting. Now the majority of people who
own, particularly handguns, own them for
personal protection. That’s changed. It’s swung. It has partly to do with these
political matrices you’re talking about. But it could change
in the other direction as well for all these
reasons I’m talking about. MARCIA MOREY: I think
the culture has changed. I mean I brought the business
section of The New York Times from last week. Doing nothing about the gun
violence is unacceptable. And we have 150 CEOs
of companies now. You know, Walmart’s
pulled their guns. I mean, this would have been
unheard of a couple of years ago. So I think you’re seeing that
public space, which is great. KRISTIN GOSS: And
ERPOs are a part of this change in the culture. So traditionally, the gun
violence prevention movement, the gun control
movement has really focused a lot more
on legal change. And laws can change practices. So that’s not an
unreasonable thing. But most social movements
are working simultaneously on legal change and
social cultural change. And I would say the
GVP movement, which was historically not very
well resourced and sort of internally divided, it
was really focusing more on the legal side. The way I think about– we
have something like 300– we don’t even know
how many guns. 300 million guns,
something like that. Somewhere around a third of
households, probably maybe even a little bit more, probably
actually maybe a little bit more have a firearm. There’s lots of guns out there. And as Jeff noted
there, the presumption is you are entitled
to one unless there is some reason around the
margins that you’re not I’ve thought about these laws a
lot as a kind of, in some ways, a cultural response
backed by a law that allows people to really practice
responsible gun ownership. Right. And I– I don’t see
our getting a handle on our disproportionately
large gun violence problem without everyday
individuals having agency. And these laws are giving– once people learn about them,
giving everyday people agency. You gave a number of examples. And I think– so if I’m a spouse
of somebody who has a firearm. We’re living
together in our home. He’s acting erratically. You know, I could be
that responsible gun owner and petition. I have a tool that I
can use, a petition to temporarily
remove the firearm until the danger is past. So this is something
that’s, I think, in itself is also going to
work on the cultural side. I can’t speak to people who
think Sandy Hook was a hoax. There’s probably some fraction
who are just not going to participate in this. But they are the median person. JAKE CHARLES: Thank you. We can take a question? Time for one more
question if anyone has one from the audience. I’ve got one that
I’ll close this with. It’s an unrelated note. So when ERPO laws were first
coming around and becoming popular, you saw a lot of
bipartisan support for them. So the NRA came out in
favor of red flag laws. President Trump,
as we mentioned, came out in favor
of red flag laws. Why do you think we’ve
seen kind of backtracking and a retrenchment to partisan
divisions in these laws? And Representative
Morey, why do you think it’s been so hard to find
bipartisan support for yours? I think we’ve all mentioned it. And I think it’s going to
take this cultural shift. And we’re overestimating
the conservative positions on things. Capitalism has a
lot to do with it. You know, who are
the big donors? Where are they coming from? I mean, NRA. Look at the money they pour into
politicians and the lobbyists. And we’re just getting
misinformation. And I think the sway is coming
from people with cultural, societal. And it’s going to change. Being patient is our only option
when more and more lives are being [INAUDIBLE]. KRISTIN GOSS: I would add a
political science take on this. We’re a really closely
divided country right now. It’s a lot of– look at how close
our Congress is. I mean, there’s
no party that just has a lock on the majority
status in most state or in a lot of
state legislatures or in the Congress. These can flip. Right. And so as long as
politicians perceive that the body can
flip fairly easily, there’s no incentive to
actually work across the aisle and give a victory to
somebody on the other side. I mean, this is like UNC
Duke basketball or something. You know, you’re not going to
graciously allow the other team to score a few points. I mean, it really– I’m sorry to revert to
the sports metaphor, but I think it’s
somewhat appropriate. And so I think as a
closely divided country, there’s not a lot of
incentive to find consensus. JEFFREY SWANSON: I was going
to say something similar as either [INAUDIBLE]
political science. I mean not political science. But I mean, the
thing is, to me, it’s about the context
of the discussion. If the discussion at the moment
is about these people who died, and the demand that we have
to do something about it, and what do we do about it, it’s
easier at that point to say, well, let’s do this. This is something
people agree on. If then in order
to enact the law, the context isn’t so much
about the people who died, and the guns, and the
problem, now the context is about politics. It is about winning and
losing, and about the trade offs and all that, and
the money from the donors and by that time, you know,
the new cycle has passed and we’re not even talking about
the mass shootings anymore. There’s an interesting
study by computer scientists who actually quantified Twitter
responses of outrage and fear and all of this in a period
around a mass shooting and coded all this information. And they’ve tracked this
response, this public response, as a kind of proxy
from Sandy Hook to all these different
mass shootings. Now what they have found
is that, over time, the intensity of the negative
reaction and the outrage has diminished. It’s not as much
as it used to be. And it doesn’t last as long. It used to last, on average,
like about five days. Now–

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