Former Acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe: Red Flag Laws Don’t Work Unless Someone Initiates the Process

( – Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe told CNN’s “At This Hour with Kate Bouldan” on Wednesday that red flag laws are only effective if someone who knows the person is struggling petitions the court to have that person’s guns taken away.

When asked whether red flag laws would have prevented the Nashville school shooting, McCabe said, “It’s a really, really tough question, Amara, but for red flag laws to work, you need much more than just having that law on the books. 

“You need family members or community members who see that a person is struggling and then proactively reach out to law enforcement to put that process in place in which the guns are taken away from the individual, and there’s a series of kind of legal hearings to determine when and if they get them back,” he said.

“So red flag laws are great, but they don’t do anything to protect us if the community and the family and the co workers who know the person is struggling, don’t initiate the process. That’s really why they’re not more consistently applied to people who could probably use that sort of attention,” the former acting FBI director said.

Tennessee does not have a red flag law on the books, which allows someone to petition the court to have weapons taken away from someone considered to be a danger to themselves or others.


On the shooting massacre at the Covenant School, the shooter – a woman who identifies as he/him, appeared to have been “very organized,” which makes mass shootings more lethal, McCabe said.

“I think these are things that we’ve seen with many mass shootings. You know the ability to think about where you want to go, to plan out the attack, to acquire weapons over a period of time to become trained and proficient with those weapons, at least go to the range and practice how to use and function as weapons are all things that we see here, and quite frankly, we see in many, most mass shootings,” McCabe said.

“Here you can tell by the way that she carries the weapon. There are times when she puts the weapon up to her shoulder and some of the ways that she moves her body and scanning different rooms that she’s entering,” the former acting FBI director said.

“This is clearly someone who has watched this happen before, whether that’s in formal training or just watching videos and things like that on YouTube. She has put some time into thinking about this, thinking how she would go through. It’s very organized and all of those things make mass shooters more lethal. That’s why they’re able to accomplish these objectives to some degree and really take lives,” he said.

McCabe also said it’s not premature to talk about gun control legislation in the wake of the Nashville shooting. 

“It’s obviously not premature,” he said, adding that he doesn’t know how many school shootings have happened so far this year.

“I can’t even remember how many of these we’ve had in this country just this year. I mean, I think there’s something like over a dozen only in schools since the beginning of this year. So it’s not premature to have these conversations, the former acting FBI director said.

“From the law enforcement perspective, you know, law enforcement officers carry guns. They are familiar with guns. Many of them are strong supporters of the Second Amendment. I carried a gun every single day for over 21 years on the job,” McCabe said.

“I own guns now, but despite all that, law enforcement officers know better than anyone how dangerous it is maneuvering through society being in these crisis situations and having to confront the extreme lethality that people are able to carry around every day. We often criticize law enforcement officers for being too quick to draw their weapons and escalate encounters,” he said. 

“Part of the reason for that is they’re trained to assume that everyone is carrying a gun because many many people are, so the profusion of guns in this country, the ease with which anyone can acquire things as extreme as an AR-15 is one of the reasons we’ve ratcheted up the tension and the volatility of what would normally be everyday interactions between law enforcement officers and the public,” McCabe said.

“So there are many, many ways that the number of guns in this country, which far exceed any other country comparative to ours, have a negative impact on society, on people’s lives, on the level of violence that we experience in America,” he said.


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