One of the questions that came up in the VIP Gold Live Chat with Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey and myself on Wednesday was from a VIP Gold member who wondered why Democrats weren’t using the shooting at a health clinic in Buffalo, Minnesota this week to push for more gun control. My response was that Democrats in Congress are focused on impeachment at the moment, but that state legislators in Minnesota would likely use the shootings to call for the passage of a red flag law at the very least.
Sure enough, that’s exactly what’s happening now.
Some Democratic legislators and gun control advocates renewed their longstanding push for background check and red-flag laws after Tuesday’s attack that killed one person and injured four others. The man arrested in the shooting had a history of violent threats and was well known to law enforcement. But gun control advocates said mass shootings, even one that hits close to home, are unlikely to change the dynamic in the Legislature, where the Senate’s Republican majority has opposed those measures.
“Anytime there’s another shooting it highlights the importance of getting guns out of the hands of people that are a danger to themselves or others,” said Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, who has pushed for several gun control measures. He said Senate Democrats will request a hearing on the bills again this year, “But I expect we’ll be stonewalled like we have in the past.”
The suspect in the shooting was well known to law enforcement, according to local officials, and had a restraining order filed against him several years ago after threatening the same clinic with a mass shooting or bombing.
He was charged with violating that restraining order in 2018, but a judge dismissed the charge because Ulrich was found mentally incompetent to proceed with the case. In 2019, a court official noted Ulrich was attempting to apply for his permit to purchase a firearm but had not yet been approved. The court official “highly recommended” that he not be allowed to have any dangerous weapons or firearms. It’s unclear how he got the gun.
If Ulrich had been found mentally incompetent to stand trial, then under federal law he’s considered a prohibited person not legally allowed to purchase or own a firearm to begin with. I’m surprised that his attempt in 2019 to purchase a firearm was even considered, given that he should be been denied by a NICS check.
Democrats are using the shooting to push for a red flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order law, but I don’t think it would have been of much use here. After all, ERPO’s only require the seizure of lawfully owned firearms, and the suspect in this case was also apparently able to construct bombs and other destructive devices. Red-flagging him may have removed his guns, but it would have left him free to plot other ways to target the clinic. Red flag laws are simply gun control bills masquerading as mental health legislation, and they do nothing to actually treat the person who’s been flagged.
I’m curious as to why, given the mental incompetence finding in 2018, the suspect was never taken in on a mental health hold, which could have kept him confined in an inpatient facility if doctors considered his mental health to be a risk to himself or others.
Unfortunately, Minnesota, like a lot of other states, has a severe shortage of in-patient beds available for those in the grips of a mental health crisis. That’s where the focus of lawmakers should be here, not on trying to pass gun control bills that would have little-to-no impact on criminals or individuals whose mental states have deteriorated to the point that they’re a danger to the public or to themselves.
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