How Red Flag Laws Could Save Lives and Reduce Gun Violence

In a bloody Valentine’s Day massacre last year, Nikolas Cruz slaughtered 17 of his former fellow students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Reactions came swiftly. Some conservatives offered the usual “thoughts and prayers,” but outraged Parkland survivors and their supporters stood determined to say #Never Again.

And then something extraordinary happened.

Just three weeks later, on March 9, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law the state’s first gun restrictions since 1996. The 105-page bill added a three-day waiting period for the purchase of firearms and raised the legal age to buy rifles from 18 to 21.

Included in the new bill was an “Extreme Risk Protection Order,”or EPRO — otherwise known as a red flag law — that allows judges to take firearms away from dangerous people and prevent them from buying more guns. 

Five states — Connecticut, Indiana, California, Oregon and Washington – already had red flag laws in place, but since Parkland another eight states have joined them: Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Maryland, as well as the District of Columbia.

That leaves another 37 states to enact these common-sense gun restrictions.

What is a red flag law?

Red flag laws are fairly straightforward. Rules vary from state to state, but in general either family members or law enforcement officers can seek a court order allowing police to take guns from a person’s home to ensure that they don’t buy more weapons. After a hearing, if the judge agrees that this person is a threat, their firearms are removed for a period of time ranging from a few weeks to a year.

The Parkland shootings would not have happened if this law had been in effect in Florida: Cruz had given the police plenty of opportunities to question and arrest him. Even the FBI had been informed about him.

In the Houston Chronicle, Chase Cobb describes the importance of red flag laws as he tells the tragic story of his brother’s suicide:

If a ‘red flag’ law existed in Texas, my brother may still be alive. He had a clear pattern of erratic behavior, domestic disputes and post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in the military. He now joins the roughly 20 veterans who die each day from suicide, including six who die from suicide despite having received support from Veterans Health Administration services, according to Department of Veterans Affairs data.

The Brady Campaign reports that 42 percent of mass shooters revealed various types of warning signs before they committed their crimes.

Red flag laws are clearly lifesavers, so why aren’t more states putting them in place?

In addition to the 13 states that have already implemented red flag laws, some states similar legislation under consideration. In Utah more than two-thirds of voters support the idea, but it has yet to pass the legislature.

In June, 2018, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo launched a statewide bus tour in support of a red flag bill, but the legislation was defeated in the state Senate.

North Dakota is also considering a red flag law: On February 4, the House completed a two-day hearing on the issue.

But for now, only 13 states and the District of Columbia have red flag laws, leaving 37 states with no laws.

Take Action!

This is a horrible situation — and one which could easily be remedied to save thousands of lives. If you agree, please sign my petition asking the remaining 37 states to adopt a red flag law now.

In honor of the first anniversary of the Parkland shooting, Care2 will spend the month of February fighting for gun safety in the United States. Will you join us?

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

39 comments

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

Block gun ownership, just block it. Start with the maniacs and terrorists.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

th

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

Amazing normal Americans ever fell for this

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

What a horrible way to treat veterans, give them PTSD and take away their job and supports, then make sure they can buy guns so they may die sooner and not draw a pension.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

Ludicrous to arm the maniacs or anyone who may be depressed and suicidal.

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara6 days ago

Guns are money and about the only thing America sells any more is arms. Sell arms to a dangerously insane person and his neighbours might buy arms to protect themselves. So that is why.

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Ciaron D
Ciaron Drain8 days ago

The red flag laws should be known as common sense laws, the NRA has for many years facilitated in the deaths thousands of US citizens each year. Using a distorted version of the second ammendment does not make anyone safer particularly when accidently going into a drive way can result in death. This is not about taking away guns it is about stopping people who should mot be near guns in the first place.

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Debbi W
Debbi W8 days ago

I'm glad California and Oregon have red flag laws.

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Alea C
Alea C8 days ago

I'm surprised to see Florida as one of the states that has a red flag law, but then I remembered Scott was trying to get into the senate when he signed it.

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Loredana V
Loredana V8 days ago

Very interesting, petition signed. Thanks.

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