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LEGAL DICTIONARY

Red Flag Law

What Is a Red Flag Law?

A red flag law allows police officers, doctors, family members, or even co-workers to petition a state court to take away an individual’s firearms for up to a year if they believe that person is a danger to themself or others.

Under a red flag law, a person does not have to have a criminal record or a history of mental illness to lose their right to bear arms.

Also called Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), red flag laws are designed to prevent gun tragedies by temporarily restricting firearms of individuals who may threaten themselves, their families, or their communities. Many shooters displayed troubling warning signs of a lack of competence before they inflicted violence and tragedy upon others.

States Vary Widely on the Implementation of Gun Control Laws

Each state sets rules for who can start a red flag petition process. Some states only allow law enforcement officers to make the request. Other states allow family members, co-workers, or teachers to file a petition. The petitions generally require some sort of documentation that shows the gun owner poses an immediate threat.

On June 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the first significant gun safety legislation passed by Congress in nearly three decades. The law adoption occurred a month after a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school killed 19 children and two adults. That attack followed a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket that killed 10 Black people.

Gun policy experts point out that red flag laws help prevent suicide, which is the second leading cause of teen death. However, gun rights groups generally oppose red flag laws. Their primary argument is that the laws violate an individual’s “due process.”

The initial petition does not require the individual in question to be present in court. Often family members or police use the gun owner’s texts, social media posts, voicemails, or notebooks to make their case.

What Does the Constitution Say?

Gun rights advocates also point to red flag laws as a violation of Second Amendment rights stated in the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment states the following:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the legality of red flag laws. While the Second Amendment states that the right to bear arms cannot be infringed, it does not explicitly prohibit the government from passing reasonable regulations.

What Is a Second Amendment Sanctuary?

Some counties, cities, and other jurisdictions have proclaimed themselves to be a Second Amendment sanctuary. A Second Amendment sanctuary is a jurisdiction that has adopted a resolution that declares that restrictive gun control laws are unconstitutional and will not be enforced in that jurisdiction. The resolutions are intended to tell legislators that law-abiding gun owners oppose gun control measures.

Red Flag Laws: Pros and Cons

Here is a summary of some of the critical factors subject to debate when it comes to red flag laws. People who support more gun control laws contend the following:

  • The Second Amendment was intended for militias.
  • Gun restrictions have always existed in the U.S.
  • Red flag laws help reduce gun violence.
  • The majority of Americans support some form of gun restrictions.

On the other hand, opponents of red flag laws argue the following:

  • The Second Amendment protects the individual’s right to own guns.
  • Guns are needed for self-defense from local criminals and foreign invaders.
  • Gun ownership helps deter crime, not cause crime.

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. currently have red flag laws. A wave of recent mass shootings has prompted bipartisan negotiations to expand red flag laws on a federal level. Some experts state that these laws and more stringency in performing background checks in firearm sales will help reduce gun violence.

Helpful Resources:

American Police Officers Alliance - Red Flag Laws & 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries

The Washington Post - Red flag laws, explained

US Law Shield - Second Amendment Sanctuaries

Library of Congress - Second Amendment

ProCon.org - Gun Control

What Is a Red Flag Law?

A red flag law allows police officers, doctors, family members, or even co-workers to petition a state court to take away an individual’s firearms for up to a year if they believe that person is a danger to themself or others.

Under a red flag law, a person does not have to have a criminal record or a history of mental illness to lose their right to bear arms.

Also called Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), red flag laws are designed to prevent gun tragedies by temporarily restricting firearms of individuals who may threaten themselves, their families, or their communities. Many shooters displayed troubling warning signs of a lack of competence before they inflicted violence and tragedy upon others.

States Vary Widely on the Implementation of Gun Control Laws

Each state sets rules for who can start a red flag petition process. Some states only allow law enforcement officers to make the request. Other states allow family members, co-workers, or teachers to file a petition. The petitions generally require some sort of documentation that shows the gun owner poses an immediate threat.

On June 25, 2022, President Joe Biden signed into law the first significant gun safety legislation passed by Congress in nearly three decades. The law adoption occurred a month after a mass shooting at a Texas elementary school killed 19 children and two adults. That attack followed a racist mass shooting at a Buffalo, N.Y. supermarket that killed 10 Black people.

Gun policy experts point out that red flag laws help prevent suicide, which is the second leading cause of teen death. However, gun rights groups generally oppose red flag laws. Their primary argument is that the laws violate an individual’s “due process.”

The initial petition does not require the individual in question to be present in court. Often family members or police use the gun owner’s texts, social media posts, voicemails, or notebooks to make their case.

What Does the Constitution Say?

Gun rights advocates also point to red flag laws as a violation of Second Amendment rights stated in the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment states the following:

“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

So far, the U.S. Supreme Court has not ruled on the legality of red flag laws. While the Second Amendment states that the right to bear arms cannot be infringed, it does not explicitly prohibit the government from passing reasonable regulations.

What Is a Second Amendment Sanctuary?

Some counties, cities, and other jurisdictions have proclaimed themselves to be a Second Amendment sanctuary. A Second Amendment sanctuary is a jurisdiction that has adopted a resolution that declares that restrictive gun control laws are unconstitutional and will not be enforced in that jurisdiction. The resolutions are intended to tell legislators that law-abiding gun owners oppose gun control measures.

Red Flag Laws: Pros and Cons

Here is a summary of some of the critical factors subject to debate when it comes to red flag laws. People who support more gun control laws contend the following:

  • The Second Amendment was intended for militias.
  • Gun restrictions have always existed in the U.S.
  • Red flag laws help reduce gun violence.
  • The majority of Americans support some form of gun restrictions.

On the other hand, opponents of red flag laws argue the following:

  • The Second Amendment protects the individual’s right to own guns.
  • Guns are needed for self-defense from local criminals and foreign invaders.
  • Gun ownership helps deter crime, not cause crime.

Nineteen states and Washington, D.C. currently have red flag laws. A wave of recent mass shootings has prompted bipartisan negotiations to expand red flag laws on a federal level. Some experts state that these laws and more stringency in performing background checks in firearm sales will help reduce gun violence.

Helpful Resources:

American Police Officers Alliance - Red Flag Laws & 2nd Amendment Sanctuaries

The Washington Post - Red flag laws, explained

US Law Shield - Second Amendment Sanctuaries

Library of Congress - Second Amendment

ProCon.org - Gun Control