What Are 'Red Flag Laws' & How Do They Work?
Are you in favor of red flag laws?
What’s the story?
- So-called “red flag laws” are emerging as a prominent proposal in the ongoing debate about gun control in the aftermath of the recent mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas; a grocery store in Buffalo, New York; and a church in Laguna Woods, California.
- Red flag laws have been adopted by several states and legislation to use similar processes at the federal level has been introduced in Congress with some degree of bipartisan support. Here’s a look at what red flag laws are and how they work.
What are red flag laws and how do they work?
- Red flag laws are gun control policies that allow a defined group of individuals ― usually family members or law enforcement, but sometimes school officials, coworkers, partners, or healthcare professionals ― to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a person who has exhibited “red flags” that indicate they may pose a danger to others or themselves. That’s typically demonstrated by showing evidence of acts of violence, credible threats of violence, or suicidal statements.
- Once the petition is made and a hearing is held, a judge makes a determination about whether to issue the order and remove the firearm from the gun owner in question. If the judge issues the order, refusing to comply with the judge’s order is typically a criminal offense.
- After a set period of time that varies depending on each jurisdiction’s law, the firearm is returned to the gun owner in question unless a subsequent court ruling extends the firearm confiscation following another hearing.
- The technical language for red flag laws varies between jurisdictions: they’re known as extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) in five states; gun violence restraining orders (GVROs) in California; risk protection orders in Florida; risk warrants in Connecticut; and several other names.
- As of May 2022, 19 states plus the District of Columbia have enacted some form of red flag law, including Connecticut (1999), Indiana (2005), California (2014), Washington (2016), and Oregon (2017). Those states were joined in 2018 by Florida, Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts, Illinois, and the District of Columbia. They were followed by New York in 2019; and by Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, and Virginia in 2020.
- Red flag laws may not be a remedy for preventing all or most mass shootings, as not all would-be perpetrators exhibit “red flag” behaviors that would prompt a judge to issue an order to temporarily take their firearms if a petition (although at least one study shows that 42% mass shooters do).
- Some implementations of red flag laws may leave too much time between the petition being filed and the hearing occurring, which could allow a would-be mass shooter to carry out their plot during the intervening period. A lack of public knowledge about applicable red flag laws has also raised concerns about the efficacy of such laws.
- A federal red flag law would also likely be more difficult to implement in some areas simply because not all cities and towns are home to a federal court, which means people petitioning for a red flag order may need to travel a considerable distance to a city that has a federal court in order to file.
- Critics of red flag laws argue that they’re an infringement on the right to self defense and can constitute an unreasonable search and seizure without adequate due process protections. Some also take issue with the nature of the hearings, which may be ex parte in nature, which means the gun owner in question may not be present for the hearing to advocate for their defense and cross-examine their accusers.
- The state of Oklahoma is the only state that has moved to prohibit red flag laws from being enacted by the state or its political subdivisions, including cities and counties.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / AleksandarGeorgiev)
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Red flag laws and deeper background checks are baby steps in addressing the plague of mass killings that is uniquely infecting our country. In that they can make some difference, no matter how small, they should be supported and passed.
The bigger issue involves why weapons able to rapidly inflict mass casualties are of any use for anything other than their ability to rapidly inflict mass casualties.
Gun manufacturers make products that can function properly for hundreds of years if properly maintained. The only reason that these AR-15 weapons are being manufactured is to develop new and profitable markets for the gun industry.
They have marketed these weapons to wanna-be Rambo’s with ads featuring people in military garb ready to take on an invading Army single-handedly. They are useful for self-defense against the unlikely encounter of a marauding hoard. I can’t see any benefit to hunters of turning their game into AR-15 riddled mince-meat.
The only reason we have AR-15 style weapons widely available is that they are profitable, as manufacturers have found a new market that appeals to an individual’s delusions of grandeur that they can single-handedly fend off a small army. This is reinforced by an aggressive marketing campaign and their profitability secured by massive investments into buying legislator’s political influence.
The quickest way to reduce our country’s plague of mass killings would be to ban AR-15 like weapons altogether nstionally as a danger to civil society. Hunting, farm varmint control and personal defense needs are adequately met with less lethal weaponry. AR-15 style and other high rate of fire large magazine semi-automatic weapons ciuld be bought back by the government as other countries have done.
The next tactic would be to make it easier to liability-sue the gun manufacturers for marketing these weapons as means to single-handed fend off a marauding hoard.
And finally, the ultimate solution to many of our country’s biggest problems:
Get fu¢king big-money out of our fu¢king Congress.
Risk-based gun removal or red flag laws are a good way to handle guns already owned where some owners may be mentally unstable but it should be paired with background checks on sales of new guns.
Red Flag laws have actually been found to be more valuable in preventing suicides which were 2/3rds (61%) of gun deaths between 2008 and 2017 than mass murders.
Most states only law enforcement and family or household members are allowed to initiate actions while some states allow medical professionals, school officials, coworkers and current or former partners.
An APM Survey found
—-- 77% support family-initiated
——70% support law enforcement
——more women (83%) than men (70%)
——mire urban than rural
——more highly educated support
Prior to 2018 only 5 states (CA, CT, IN, OR, WA) had red flag laws.
By 2020 there were 19 states and DC adopted red flag laws when 14 states added laws (CO, DC, DE, FL, HI, IL, MA, MD, NJ, MN, NY, RI, NV, VA, VT)
Only OK state law prohibits local red flag laws.
red Flag Success Measures
-1 in 10 suicides averted
-Indiana suicide rate dropped 7.5% in 10 years
-56% of mass shooters warning signs
-Researchers from the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis School of Medicine reviewed 414 cases that occurred from 2016 to 2018,
——the study authors received 159 court cases for people subject to the orders and developed an aggregate history and individual histories for a preliminary series of 21 cases.
—-52 firearms were taken from individuals (26 of them in one case).
—-Profile: non-Hispanic white males, with a mean age of 35, though they ranged in age from 14 to 65.
—4 cases arose primarily in relation to medical or mental health conditions, and such conditions were noted in four others. The cases involved workplace threats, school threats or those targeting children, as well as cases with political, social or domestic motivations.
—-3 cases the researchers studied, the individuals had very recently purchased firearms but, as a result of California’s 10-day waiting period, had not yet acquired them. Because of the court order, the individuals were blocked from getting a gun.
—-According to the study, nearly 80% of perpetrators of mass violence in public places make explicit threats or behave in a manner “indicative of their intent to carry out an attack.” like the shooters in the Parkland, Florida; Aurora, Colorado; and Tucson, Arizona events, among others, were known by family members, acquaintances, law enforcement, and in some cases, healthcare professionals, to be at high risk for violence.
Oh for God's sake. Just ban the damn automatic assault weapons!
The only thing easier to buy than an automatic weapon is a Republican politician.
There are pros and cons to red flag laws. While I think it is worth looking at, the details of the law needs to be very clear to avoid other issues surfacing as a result.
The only reason for having any high rate of fire, large magazine semiautomatic weapon would be to inflict lethal damage to a large number of 'targets' rapidly. AR-15 like weapons are designed to inflict mass casualties quickly.
‘Justifications’ that AR-15 like weapons are useful for any purpose other than increasing gun manufacturer’s profits, by marketing these weapons to wanna-be Rambo’s, are false.
Are AR-15 like weapons needed for hunting? I don’t see how, unless you needed to kill a herd a buffalo for sport, or you needed your hunted game turned into mince-meat at the point of the kill. Beside that, mass killing of a herd of animals, is hardly something I would call a ‘sport’.
Are AR-15 like weapons useful for sports like competitive marksmanship? Generally these guns have longer, heavier barrels and are often breech loaded single shot weapons- so that the aiming cannot be effected by semiautomatic loading mechanisms. So, these weapons are not needed for competitive marksmanship sports.
So AR-15 like weapons good for self-defense, self protection? If one had to defend themselves from an organized military, even just a few well trained operatives, they would be overcome by coordinated strategy, tactics and better weaponry - most likely before they would even realize the need to pick up their AR-15 like weapons. So, not very useful for defending against a committed military unless the owner had extensive training, exceptional reflexes and clear strategies - but these weapons are sold to the general public, and not limited to just those able to meet strict certification criteria.
Are AR-15 like weapons useful for self defense from a marauding hoard, say from a Zombie apocalypse? Anyone thinking that they need an AR-15 like weapon to fend off zombies wouldn’t need one to begin with, because they would not have enough grey matter to attract any self-respecting zombie in the first place. So again, no!
Would AR-15 like weapons useful for fending off a small number of attackers with lethal intent, say Charles Manson and Company? I suppose that they could be, but that raises another question of just how likely that kind of encounter would be. I would expect that the likelihood of such an encounter is dwarfed by the likelihood of being accidentally shot by gun accidents or as collateral damage from bullets that travel long distances from their intended targets. There are many, many more reports of AR-15 like weapons being used to slaughter innocents than there are of home or business invasions by those with lethal intent. The numbers should show that the societal risks vastly outweigh the benefits of AR-15 like weapons being a useful alternative to conventional firearms for self-defense. So, no - from a big-picture perspective, AR-15 like weapons have been proven to be more costly to society than the conventional fire arms used for self-defense.
There is no compelling need for any of the ‘features’ that these AR-15 like weapons provide for the sole purpose of being able to easily and rapidly inflict lethal damage to a large number of ‘targets’: High rate of fire semiautomatic weapons that can approach machine gun firing rates by the use of bump stocks; Large capacity magazines that allow massive damage between reloads, high muzzle velocity rounds that cause massive tissue damage to ensure a ‘kill’ shot; the use of hollow point ammunition,legal in some states, that also causes massive tissue damage to ensure a ‘kill’ shot.
None of these ‘features’ are needed for hunting, varmint control on farms, protection from animal attacks in remote areas or self-defense. All of these needs are fully met by traditional firearms which are not designed to rapidly inflict lethal damage to a large number of targets.
Why aren’t these types of weapons simply banned?
They serve no purpose that cannot be adequately served with less lethal weapons.
Who, specifically, needs them and for what purpose?
The mere availability of these weapons to the general public will allow them to be misused by a few - which would be much less of an issue if only less lethal weapons were readily available.
I suppose that a select few could meet a rigorous training and certification criteria, licensing, and liability insurance requirements should they lose such weapons or have them stolen. But, these would be strictly limited.
If not banned now, I can see a new market for ‘Little Tommy’s Sniper Rifles’ to be coming, complete with an on-board computer controlled sight that corrects for atmospheric conditions to target that ‘sweet spot’ of the targets medulla oblongata.
IF we ever have a red flag law in Texas, I'd be the first person in line at my local Federal Courthouse to start the process on abbortt, paxton, patrick, creighton, brady, cornyn and cruz.
But first, Nov. 8!
Before they takeout YOUR kids
So the next time someone has a beef with you, or just wants revenge for some reason, they can claim that you are a danger to society, thereby having your guns confiscated until an investigation can be done to determine if that is in fact true or not.
While I can see this helping in situations where an individual truly does show mental instability or has threatened others, there are too many ways for these laws to be abused.
While I am a staunch supporter of Second Amendment rights, I do believe limited reg flag laws could help reduce the number of mass shootings in the US. I also think improvement of mental heath services, enforcing the existing laws on the books (eg. take the illegal guns out of the hands of felons), and perhaps making background checks more effective may help. If we try these things, we should do them a step at a time with a sunset provision so analysis of their true effect can be made prior to permanently establishing such laws.
Any law that allows one persons lie to restrict another persons rights and property is clearly flawed.
Lets start with I have been a hunter, had several guns over the years(many.) My concern is that canidate politicians will purchase guns or use the ones they have to hunt RINO's.
An example of this is Missouri Senate race. He does this to get elected, of course.
Does this remind you of the "5th avenue" statement.
Monkey see's Monkey does!
I'm for red flag longs AS LONG as there are consequences for people who abuse it to try to take guns from law abiding citizens. EX: my parents and I love shooting but we ensure continuous gun safety, lock up our guns, and take extra precautions when shooting or traveling with our guns. But I don't want to have deal with someone who calls the police or tries to utilize the red flag law because they don't like guns, or want to use it to try to remove guns from me or my family. I'm for gun control as long as it's enforced correctly and towards the right people.
Take the guns away from your drug dealers
Any regulation is infringement
Red Flag Laws sound good on the surface, but can cost law-abiding citizens their DUE PROCESS and allow well-meaning people to interfere with someone that they may not know they are causing trouble for or causing harm to. Criminals definitely may need to have their gun(s) taken away for safe keeping while they have their day in court. However, it is the criminals that should not have access to guns with which they may cause harm to themselves or others, but they definitely do have to receive due process in the judicial removal of any gun(s) by a court of law in the judicial due process. Those who use red flag laws to create harm to other people to which they may bear false witness against or cause trouble for and press charges to mailcioulsy cause harm should then in turn be held accountable and not taken lightly by the court. Anyone fould to be guilty of a gun crime against another must be convicted of their crime and sentenced to just punishment. Victims of crime must be restituted by the criminal causing harm them harm.
Hopefully the red flag law will be more effective than a restraining order. They aren't worth the paper they are written on.
The "sheriff " of Weld County in Colorado refuses to enforce the red flag law!! Of course Weld County is the armpit of Cold. Figures. 💙
Another common sense gun reform we should be putting into place immediately. Stop fooling around and do it. Stop the slaughter of innocents.
Red flag laws have been effective in Florida. Help make them A Federal requirement for the safety of teachers, nurses, doctors, families, store workers and all US citizens
Red Flag Laws are long overdue and need to be passed with stricter gun control laws like banning the sale of Assault Weapons, closing Gun Show loopholes, changing the age to 21 to buy a gun, and mandatory 30-day wait time to actually take possession of the weapon. And while we're at it, let's protect the living just as Texas and the Supreme Court want to protect the unborn by having citizens report the possession of an Assault Weapon by another citizen and/or organization to the FBI and receive a $100,000 reward, I'm positive that the parents of all the massacred children and other victims would heartily approve. Stop talking, stop the remorse and JUST DO IT ALREADY!!! That will stop all the black market guns that will be left after the Assauit Ban goes into effect, and please, NO GRANDFATHERING!!!
We need gun control now! Every money grubbing Republican Congress member is responsible for the deaths of these children. The Republicans ended the Brady Bill. They are accountable with the NRA for the carnage since they ended it.
They should have to review the pictures of the victims, and view the clean up the environment of where this children were murdered. They are responsible for the mess.
We don't want your thoughtless platitudes of "thought's and prayers"! It's insulting! Do your damn jobs and ban assault type weapons! NOW! Raise the age of gun ownership. NOW! Expand background checks. NOW!
STOP grifting off the gun lobby!
Ben Sasse bombastically pontificated about the shooters in San Bernadino, CA, because they were terrorists, but not one word about the shooting of minorities. Sasse takes money from the Gun lobby. Fisher doesn't even say sorry, or thoughts and prayers. She that's money from the gun lobby. Rep Don Bacon shows up for photo oops and says thoughts and prayers, while voting against every single gun bill proposed. And, he takes a LOT of money from the gun lobby.
They are all complicit in the killings. There is nothing pro-life about any of them. Nothing.
Red flag laws won't entirely fix the problem, but they will help. Please vote to pass them!!
This will only work if people know how many guns this person has, where they may be hidden, and if they can get another one from underground once theirs is removed. Instead, extend the legal age to 25 to purchase guns, make it a requirement that 5 people they know that aren't family members write statements of recommendation that can vouch for the potential gun buyer. Exclude anyone that has been hospitalized for suicide attempts or is currently under treatment for any mental illness. Hold families/bosses/friends accountable for failing to turn in violent threats or death threats of any kind, including suicidal. And remember, if a violent person has every intent to act, "Gun free zone" signs as proven far to many times, will fail to protect the innocent.
this law would be good but knowing how people are some would use it against someone they were married to or in a relationship with because I see this now when someone gets a restraining order against someone and lies about it. So I like the idea but I have a feeling it will be abused by certain people.
Are you in favor of red flag laws?
Yes as long as they aren't being used for vindictive purposes.
The gun lobby says guns don't kill, people do. With that logic, they should be in favor of red flag laws since they target the potential killers.
First and foremost, I am a gun owner. However, I am in absolute favor of nearly all aspects of gun control. I no longer own any assault rifles and all of my handguns are legally registered, secured in gun safes and I have a permit to carry concealed. I don't give a fat rats ass if the government runs a detailed and extensive background check on any gun or ammo purchase I might make as I have NOTHING to hide. I believe that a thirty day waiting period is perfectly acceptable to pick up a gun purchase. I have no problem with a red flag law that requires law enforcement to collect my guns should the law deem it necessary because I do nothing that would make me a threat to myself or the public. I am a three tour combat veteran and I have seen first hand the destructive power of m-16's and AK47 type weapons and believe that civilian versions, regardless of caliber, should be banned from sale and manufacture in the United States. Further, I believe that high capacity magazines should also be prohibited from sale and manufacture. In fact, no semi automatic rifle should be capable of firing more than 5 rounds. 10, 20, 30 round and high capacity drum feeds are rediculous and any "Hunter" that says differently must be hunting in a location where the game they are hunting wear Kevlar vests and shoot back at them or they get into a fire fight with other hunters over the wild turkey they just shot. The second amendment argument Carrie's zero weight with me. It was written when this country was in infancy, we had no standing army, no national guard, no police force, FBI, Homeland Security, secret Service, ATF, armed border patrol etc. Needed for home defense? Seriously? An AR15 for home defense? What are you defending against? A zombie attack? Russians on your front lawn? Try a shotgun or a handgun if necessary. In reality, many of you want to parade around in camouflage calling yourself a patriot never having served in the military. The truth is that many are so afraid of your own shadow that you think and AR or AK gives you a pair of balls. It doesn't. I have already gone on too long. Those of you in Congress who blankety block common sense gun control should be made to walk through the next mass shooting and see, first hand, those tiny bodies so terribly injured and maimed, lying in their own blood, tissue and excrement, so horribly disfigured that they cannot be identified without DNA. And you can carry those images with you when you collect your next freaking blood money contribution from the gun lobby, the NRA and the religious right that think gun ownership is a God given right. You all need to get the hell out of office!!!!!!!! You camouflaged summer soldiers who believe gun ownership gives you a pair of balls need to get a reality check and a major attitude adjustment.
Red flags work please implement this.
I am in favor of red flag laws.
For the love of innocent children and all men and women who are victims of gun deaths, please drop the rhetoric about anyone who wants to see Red Flag Laws, higher age limit to buy guns, and restricting military grade guns is someone trying to take your precious guns away from you! If you continue to tout yourselves as the party of law and order and fail to do what you can to stop the carnage, your constituents will not forget. Please be part of the solution!