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Legislature

Rep. Ensler proposes bills to curb gun violence

Ensler proposed eight bills ranging from mental health support and prevention programs to a “red flag law” and bans on “ghost guns” and Glock switches.

Then-candidate Phillip Ensler during his campaign for the Alabama state House.
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Freshman Rep. Phillip Ensler, D-Montgomery, called for eight different acts of the Alabama Legislature to help curb gun violence in his district and across the state.

Ensler held the press conference just five days after a shooting at a Dadeville birthday party killed four and injured 32, with some still in critical condition.

But Ensler said these proposals are not just a reaction to that tragedy.

“The cry that we heard overwhelmingly (while campaigning) was to do something, knowing that we can’t make everything right or fix everything, but at least get in there and try to do something,” Ensler said. 

Passing laws restricting guns in any way can be an uphill battle in a deeply red state, but some of Ensler’s proposals already have bipartisan support.

That includes a ban on trigger actuators, or “Glock switches,” that turn an everyday pistol into an automatic weapon. That bill is being carried by Rep. Randy Wood, R-Anniston , and has already passed through a committee.

Ensler said his bill would have a few technical differences to Wood’s bill, but said he looks forward to “reconciling those differences” with Wood.

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Several of Ensler’s bills aren’t focused on restricting guns at all, instead routing money toward gun violence prevention.

“I will continue to champion and advocate for a line item in the budget to fund hospital-based violence intervention programs,” Ensler said. “These programs are located in trauma centers and emergency departments and engage patients while they are still in the hospital, often just hours after a violent injury.”

Enlser said he is encouraged that the proposal has been getting a lot of attention to be in the state budget. Having these programs reduces the chances of retaliation or violent injury, Ensler said.

Ensler also proposed the creation of a grant through ADECA for cities and counties to apply for funds to implement “evidence-based strategies to reduce gun violence, especially among young people.”

“Birmingham has a promising model of having prevention coaches and curriculum in schools,” Ensler said. 

Ensler also proposed a state law to match federal regulations on “ghost guns,” guns that do not have a serial number.

“These have proliferated our streets and communities in which people circumvent federal gun laws that require a serial number on a weapon,” Ensler said. “People are ordering parts online through the click of a button, or they are printing them with 3D printers. This allows them to avoid background checks and easily transfer the guns around to others to use in a. crime.”

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Ensler also announced his intention to file a bill similar to one proposed by Sen. Merika Coleman, D-Birmingham, known as a “red flag law.”

Such laws create a process for guns to be removed temporarily from people that are deemed to pose an immediate threat to themselves or others, with a hearing within 48 hours to determine whether they are mentally fit to have a weapon.

“Congress has passed funding for them,” Ensler said. “That money is on the table, so Alabama should pass a red flag law and take advantage of the federal funds that are there to implement those in communities all throughout the state.”

Ensler also proposed a voluntary “do not sell” list that inividuals could put themselves on if they are feeling that they should not be allowed to have a gun. 

Another proposal would be to create “mental health responders” within police departments to respond to situations that are mental health issues to free up officers to respond to more violent crimes.

Finally, Ensler proposed a bill to put more mental health counselors in schools.

Ensler said he understands the difficulty of getting these bills passed out of the Legislature.

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“I am not naive and I have no illusions,” Ensler said. “I know it is very difficult to pass ny bill in particular … 

“I cannot emphasize enough that all of these proposals transcend party and they should receive bipartisan support. They are not about Democrat or Republican, but about doing the right thing for our communities. None of these laws will stop every act of gun violence, but we have a duty to try.”

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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