In a nutshell, the premise of a red flag law is to protect people from high-risk gun owners or themselves. Through a state court order, police or family members could petition firearm confiscation.
This article will give you the lowdown on this controversial statute.
10 Must-Read Red Flag Law Lowdown
1. What is a Red Flag Law?
A red flag law is legislation authorizing courts to issue a special protection order. This order allows police or family members to confiscate firearms of dangerous individuals.
The court determines high-risk individuals based on solid evidence. In most cases, requests come from the high-risk person’s friends or even relatives.
Police authorities may also file the petition. Specific circumstances also determine the confiscation time of a firearm.
Through another hearing, the court is capable of extending the ownership ban. A red flag law also prohibits the high-risk person from buying firearms.
2. What are the Bases Behind the Red Flag Law in the U.S.?
After a shooting frenzy at a lottery, the state of Connecticut passed a red flag law in 1999. It is the first gun control law of its kind in America.
Almost a decade later three other states followed suit. On January 1, 2020, the state of Colorado, Hawaii, and Nevada enacted their respective red flag laws.
Reports of hapless mass shootings fueled the fan of opinion against shooting-related violence. Political debates though hampered the progress of concrete actions to address this issue.
Not until the massacres in Dayton and Ohio that a bipartisan measure gains support.
It would take 31 civilian lives to spur proposal for an extreme risk protection order. ERPO, otherwise known as red flag law, henceforth become what they are today.
3. Are There Red Flag Law Precedents?
A solution is being pushed by Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. His unlikely ally on this bipartisan law is Democrat Sen. Richard Blumenthal.
Before the first red flag law in the late ‘90s, some factors contributed to its development.
Below is a rundown of these significant gun control issues in the U.S.:
- The Children’s Gun Crisis
- Ghost Guns
- 2021 Homicide Surge
- First Major 2nd Amendment Ruling
- Arms Race in the U.S.
4. Does a Red Flag Law Work?
Even law enforcement finds it difficult to measure the effectiveness of a red flag law. The reason is, there is no certain data on the number of evaded slayings.
Based on the experience of Connecticut, red flag laws do not work 100 percent. Case in point, the culprit behind the Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting in 2012.
Despite alarming signs, the gunman still had easy access to firearms pre-attack. In truth, red flag laws have been used in scenarios other than mass shooting incidents.
This is among the situations the measure aimed to prevent. But most of the time, guns came from individuals posing threat to their families.
Note: Studies suggest the significant effect of red flag laws on suicide cases. In Connecticut and Indiana, subjects are 30 times more likely to commit suicide.
The laws have a huge effect on suicides, the most common way that guns kill Americans. For every 10 to 20 confiscations in the same states, statistics show fewer deaths.
5. How a Lawmakers Bolster Red Flag Law Efficacy?
Due to inconsistencies in efficacy, studies have been made to sharpen the teeth of red flag laws. Back in the state of Connecticut and Indiana, people felt significant changes.
After boosting police presence, suicide cases in Connecticut were down to 14%. In Indiana, it declined to 7.5% between 2005 and 2015.
6. What is the General View of Legislators About Red Flag Law?
Throughout the years, red flag bills failed to gain momentum in Congress. Lately, though, key Republican legislators expressed support for red flag law passing.
Grants were offered to states so that they may sway in favor of red flag legislation. In recent history, Republican legislators bared plans to propose similar bills.
Most notable is South Carolina Republican Senator and Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham. More Republican lawmakers are gravitating towards such firearm control measures.
7. What are the Reasons Behind Red Flag Law Oppositions?
Although there are various reasons, let us focus on the more obvious ones. First, conservatives oppose the passing of a red flag based on the Second Amendment.
They believe that red flag statutes infringe on their rights. Despite the National Rifle Association’s support, they generally oppose red flag laws.
Another common guise for opposing the law is that it denies subjects the due process of law. Though there are many other reasons, these are the main ones behind the opposition.
8. How Many States Have a Red Flag Law Now?
Today, 17 states have recently approved certain red flag law versions. Among these legislations, the red flag law in California is the most comprehensive.
The most recent is the one in New York. The state’s version of the law allows mentors and family members to petition state courts.
18 States that Approved Red Flag Laws:
- District of Columbia
- New Jersey
- New York
- Rhode Island
9. Who Can Petition for Gun Removal Under A Red Flag Law?
Procedures may vary depending on the state approving the bill. Most U.S. states though allow family members to petition firearm removal on state courts.
List of States and Individuals Who Can Petition for Gun Confiscation:
- California – Household members, family, and police officers
- Colorado – Household members, family, and police officers
- Connecticut – A state attorney or two police officers
- Delaware – Household members, family, and police officers
- District of Columbia – Household members, family, mental health professionals, and police officers
- Florida – Police officers
- Hawaii – Household members, family, medical professionals, teachers, co-workers, and police officers
- Illinois – Household members, family, and police officers
- Indiana – Police officers
- Maryland – Household members, family, certain health professionals, and police officers
- Massachusetts – Household members, family, and police officers
- Nevada – Household members, family, and police officers
- New Jersey – Household members, family, and police officers
- New York – Household members, family, school administrators, and police officers
- Oregon – Household members, family, and police officers
- Rhode Island – Police officers
- Vermont – State attorneys
- Washington – Police officers
10. How Fast is a Petition Issued Under a red Flag Law?
Without notice to the subject, every state could confiscate his or her firearm fast. This is called ex parte order.
The technical part is, this order though has a short duration. There is a need for another court hearing allowing final order for long-term gun removal.
This hearing also allows the subject to file a motion to contest the petition. Based on studies conducted by the Gifford Law Center, ex parte orders vary from state to state.
For example, in California, a hearing must be held within 21 days of an ex parte order. In New York, the hearing lasts for merely six days.
Final orders may last from six months to a whole year. In New Jersey, a final order could last indefinitely unless the subject proves he or she is no longer a threat.
Red flag law will continue to spur debates as long as no lasting solution is implemented. There is a pressing need to further conduct more in-depth studies on this issue. Right now though, we can only rely on existing laws.
What are your thoughts about existing red flag laws in your state? We would like to hear your valuable opinion in the comment section below!
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