Following the horrific shootings in Ohio and Texas, Republicans and Democrats alike are calling for Red Flag laws to be implemented in the United States.
There may be a bipartisan appeal, but not everyone is sold on the policy. Here are five things to know about Red Flag laws.
What are Red Flag laws?
Red Flag laws — sometimes referred to as extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) — would grant police officers the ability to remove guns from anyone who is reported to be a threat to the public. These policies already exist in 17 states, granting family members the ability to report their relative if they believe he or she could be a danger to society.
How would they work?
Though it varies by state, typically, the family must ask a judge to grant authorities permission to remove weapons from the flagged individual. They petition the court and explain their fears to a judge who can give local police the green light to take the weapons away.
The flagged individual does not get notified about the legal proceedings regarding the court petition. If the judge grants the families wishes, the individual will have no clue he or she has been flagged until police arrive to confiscate the weapons.
The confiscation is immediate but temporary.
Who supports the legislation?
In the wake of the shootings, Senators Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) penned legislation that announced federal support for states that pass Red Flag laws. While this isn’t a federal law, it could encourage the remaining states to take up the policy.
President Trump announced his support for ERPOs, telling the American people:
“We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.”
Republicans are joined by many Democrats in their support for the policy.
Enough-time for real action. Pass a domestic terrorism bill. Ban assault weapons, high capacity magazines, body armor, silencers. Pass universal background checks, end loopholes: gunshow and Charleston. Pass red flag laws. We can reduce the carnage if pols have the guts to act
— Eric Holder (@EricHolder) August 5, 2019
The solutions aren’t obvious, even if we pretend they are. But we must try. Let’s start with the TAPS Act. Maybe also implement state “red flag” laws, or gun violence restraining orders. Stop them before they can hurt someone.https://t.co/2G2pZSWaF1
— Rep. Dan Crenshaw (@RepDanCrenshaw) August 4, 2019
Congress should enact Red Flag laws/ Extreme Risk Protection Orders in EVERY state and increase resources dedicated to mental health support. https://t.co/YWgccND8dH
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) August 4, 2019
A victim's wife asked me, "How do we change this?"
In addition to universal background checks, a ban on the sale of weapons of war, & red flag laws, we have got to acknowledge the hatred and open racism we're seeing on Fox News, on the internet, and from our Commander-in-Chief. https://t.co/YNc73D38pC
— Beto O'Rourke (@BetoORourke) August 4, 2019
With the cross-partisan appeal, the laws seem like a no-brainer, but that isn’t the case. Many are skeptical of ERPOs.
Why do some oppose Red Flag laws?
Those who opposed Red Flag laws aren’t as concerned about the Second Amendment as they are about the Fifth Amendment.
Many believe that ERPOs violate the right to due process because the individuals whose guns are confiscated never has a chance to defend their case before the court. Their guns are taken, then they have to start from scratch to get them back.
Some believe such laws could be abused.
Limited govt folks: Red flag laws sound great…until the no due process left starts reporting you for being “a threat to society” because they disagree w/ you. Leftist judges will agree. Unless written very specifically, even then, red flag laws = easy to abuse. Tread carefully
— Katie Pavlich (@KatiePavlich) August 5, 2019
The tyranny of red flag laws is coming. It will be the greatest infringement on the #2A in our history. No, @realDonaldTrump, restrictions on my rights are not the answer. Making long term mental health facilities acceptable again would be the right action. https://t.co/cRs6534Mfk
— Col. Rob Maness ret. (@RobManess) August 5, 2019
I don’t know why people are so worried about Red Flag gun laws. I’m sure there will be a foolproof vetting system in place. Just like the FISA court…
— Jesse Kelly (@JesseKellyDC) August 6, 2019
Would Red Flag laws stop mass shootings?
There is no evidence to suggest that mass shootings would end altogether if Red Flag laws were implemented.
However, according to the anti-gun violence group Everytown, 51 percent of mass gunmen show warning signs that they may attack the public. Everytown also notes that ERPOs can effective in preventing suicides by taking away weapons from vulnerable individuals.
May not have mattered here, but Red Flag laws have proven to be effective in states that have them. (2/2)
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) August 4, 2019
We implore & advocate for common-sense approaches to ending gun violence, such as supporting gun violence prevention restraining orders or "Red Flag" laws that allow for the removal of guns from any person who poses a real, evidence-based risk of violence to themselves or others.
— NAMI (@NAMICommunicate) August 5, 2019
While it could reduce gun violence, there are no guarantees that the policy would prevent future attacks. As many people noted, there are other ways to commit atrocities that don’t involve guns.
If someone's truly disturbed, why would we take their guns and leave them with matches, gasoline, sharp knives, and no mental health treatment?
Red flag laws are a gun control solution to a mental health issue. https://t.co/CJ4WG00pqZ
— Cam Edwards (@CamEdwards) August 5, 2019
Ultimately, there is no easy solution for ending mass shootings in the U.S. It remains unclear whether Red Flag legislation — or any other anti-gun violence measures — will take hold nationwide.