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Penzone discusses pros, cons of ‘red flag’ legislation after shootings

(AP Photo/Matt York)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County sheriff said he’s not surprised that the Texas shooter’s mother’s tip to police wasn’t used to stop his attack.

“Her greater concerns were the type of weapon that her son possessed because she was concerned about his age and his maturity and other factors, that he could actually utilize it in a safe capacity,” Sheriff Paul Penzone told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Bruce St. James & Pamela Hughes Show on Thursday.

“So now we have a social issue or a parenting issue, versus a law enforcement issue.”

The 21-year-old man was arrested Saturday after killing 22 people and wounding another two dozen at a Walmart in El Paso. His mom contacted police weeks before the rampage out of concern that he owned a rifle.

Penzone said he likes the idea of “red flag” legislation, which would allow guns to be taken away from people believed to be dangerous, but he has concerns.

“I think that we need more tools to give us latitude that when someone is behaving in a way that causes concern, that we can incorporate courts or clinical professionals (as) part of the process to make a further determination,” he said.

“But in ‘red flag’ legislation, the burden cannot solely fall on the law enforcement professional … If we cross too far over, then we’ve undermined our constitutional ways that might not be in the best interest of law altogether.”

He said while taking guns away from criminals is a pretty clear-cut determination, there are more gray areas.

“Where is the threshold when we have a lawful authority to potentially seize a weapon because we believe someone is dangerous?” he said.

“(When) people express opinions or views that are offensive in nature but not criminal, we’re limited, and we have to be very, very careful to ensure that we’re not violating someone’s rights.”

But he said he could see such laws defusing certain potentially dangerous situations.

“Just say that you have a circumstance that is domestic in nature, and we know that it’s volatile because there’s emotions involved in that moment,” he said.

“If we can have more authority to take a weapon for a short duration until maybe that emotional stimulus is diminished or there’s further evaluation, then we can at least get the tool that is used for violence removed from the environment.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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