AP

‘Red flag laws’ offer tool for preventing some gun violence

Aug 24, 2019, 9:49 AM | Updated: Jun 8, 2022, 5:03 pm
...

(AP) After a white supremacist discussed plans on Facebook for a mass shooting at a synagogue, police in Washington used a new law to quickly seize his 12 firearms, long before he was convicted of any crime.

But when a Tennessee father became alarmed about his son after receiving a suicidal text message, he said the police determined they could not take his son’s guns away. A few months later, the man showed up at a church and shot seven worshippers one Sunday morning, killing one.

Family members and police routinely face agonizing decisions when otherwise lawful gun owners reveal an impulse to harm themselves or others, and more states are enacting laws that let authorities take away their weapons.

With bipartisan support in many cases, 17 states and Washington D.C. have now passed “red flag laws” that allow the court-ordered removal of guns from people who are considered to be dangerous. The back-to-back shootings that killed 31 people this month in Texas and Ohio have given new momentum to proposals pending in several other states and to a plan in Congress to provide grant money to states that adopt such measures.

In a rare victory for gun control advocates, the laws have spread since the February 2018 shooting that killed 17 students and staff members at a high school in Parkland, Florida. New York’s new law took effect Saturday while New Jersey’s begins Sept. 1. The proliferation of such laws comes despite opposition from gun rights activists and others who say the measures go too far.

Since most of the laws are new, research on their effectiveness is limited. A study published last year estimated that the two states with the longest-standing laws, Connecticut and Indiana, may have had 500 fewer gun suicides over a decade as a result of the measures. Another study estimated that

Connecticut, which adopted its law in 1999 after a mass shooting at the state lottery office, prevented one suicide for every 10 to 20 people subjected to gun seizures.

A study published this week about California’s law found 21 examples in which people who had threatened public shootings were successfully disarmed.

In jurisdictions where red flag laws have been aggressively enforced, officials say the measures have likely prevented some suicides, workplace shootings and domestic killings.

“I’m convinced that having this powerful tool gives our communities the ability to step in and prevent some tragedies from happening,” said Mara Elliott, the city attorney in San Diego, where more than 300 gun violence restraining orders have been issued in less than two years. “Given the numbers that we are seeing, I think that’s startling.”

She said the orders have been used to protect people from “all walks of life,” including students, employees, intimate partners, parents and children.

Those disarmed by red flag orders include a man who made online threats of a mass shooting at a gay bar, a man who told a family member he was going to kill Muslims, and a man who made disturbing statements about guns and immigrants. To grant a final order under California’s law, a judge must find evidence that the person poses “significant danger.”

In Florida, courts have granted more than 1,800 risk protection orders since its law passed in March 2018, data shows. Other states report anywhere from dozens to hundreds of cases per year.

The state laws vary greatly, particularly over which individuals can petition for orders and the standard of proof they must show to be granted. And their enforcement differs by local jurisdiction, with cities like San Diego and Seattle and pockets of Maryland and Florida using them more aggressively than others.

Proposals in several states, including New Hampshire, Nebraska and Tennessee, have stalled after opposition from gun rights activists and, in some cases, divisions among law enforcement over whether they go too far.

Critics of the laws say they can result in the seizure of guns from law-abiding citizens based on thin claims of danger or false and exaggerated allegations. While many police chiefs have publicly supported red flag laws, other law enforcement leaders contend that they infringe on constitutional rights and will create an expensive new mandate to store guns. And the death of an officer who was shot by a suspect while serving a warrant last year under Maryland’s new law highlighted the danger to the police responsible for seizing firearms.

“It creates almost an instant situation of potentially deadly force, and you have to think, are we initiating that confrontation?” said Matt Barrall, vice president of the Nebraska chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police.

Barrall testified in February in favor of a red flag law in Nebraska. But he said his group has since revisited its position and may be less supportive in the future.

At the center of the debate are questions over whether the laws disarm truly dangerous people. Supporters say that the laws give people who are in mental distress time to cool off or get mental health treatment.

“It’s not going to work in 100 percent of the situations but I feel like it gives you that extra time,” said Marilyn Balcerak, who campaigned for the Washington law after her son killed his step-sister and himself in 2015. She had asked police whether she had any legal way to keep guns from her son after he had threatened suicide, but was told there wasn’t.

The threat to the Washington state synagogue came from Dakota Reed, who came to the FBI’s attention after the Anti-Defamation League reported a series of Facebook posts that threatened Jewish people last year. They included photos of Reed in his bedroom with firearms and Nazi salutes, posts that glorified other well-known shooters and repeated references to plans to carry out a mass shooting in the year 2025. “I’m shooting for 30 Jews,” Reed wrote in one.

Reed told police that he was just venting anger and trying to get attention with his Facebook posts, which he said were intended as fiction. But he continued posting slurs and threats while free on bond, including one in which he mused about taking a “grenade launcher” to a courthouse. By then, police had seized his assault-style rifle and 11 other guns after a judge signed an extreme risk protection order. In June, he was sentenced to one year in jail.

There was no red flag law in Tennessee before the September 2017 shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ. Advocates argue it’s the type of deadly event that the state could potentially prevent by passing the change.

Emanuel Samson’s father, Vanansio Samson, testified in court that he received a suicidal text message from his son in June 2017. The father said he then tried to convince authorities to take away Samson’s guns, but he said police responded by claiming they could not infringe on his civil rights.

Police have said their report doesn’t show that request being made, and that officers deemed Samson OK when they checked on him.

Samson, who had a history of mental illness, killed a woman in the church parking lot before entering the building. Wearing a clown-design motorcycle mask, he struck six other worshippers in a spray of bullets and pistol-whipped another.

“If (police) had detained him and taken him for an evaluation that time, because I believe that sickness was out there, we would have not been sitting here today, or this tragedy would have not happened,” Vanansio Samson testified.

Emanuel Samson was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

AP

A man works at an avocado orchard in Santa Ana Zirosto, Michoacan state, Mexico, Thursday, Jan. 26,...
Associated Press

Route to Super Bowl is long, dangerous for Mexican avocados

It is a long and sometimes dangerous journey for avocados destined for guacamole on tables and tailgates in the United States during the Super Bowl.
1 day ago
Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux speaks during a news conference Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2023, in Vis...
Associated Press

Authorities: 2 arrested in California shooting that killed 6

A California sheriff says two gang members suspected in the massacre of six people last month in central California have been arrested, one after a gunbattle.
2 days ago
This booking image provided by the Chicago Police Department, shows Eva Bratcher, who has been accu...
Associated Press

Daughter charged after mom’s body found in Chicago freezer

A Chicago woman is accused of keeping her mother’s dead body in a freezer for nearly two years while living in a nearby apartment.
3 days ago
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) leaves her office at the Longworth House Office Building on February 02...
Kevin Freking and Lisa Mascaro

House GOP votes to oust Democrat Omar from major committee

House Republicans have voted to oust Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar from the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
3 days ago
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol on F...
Colleen Long and Chris Megerian, Associated Press

Biden urges unity at prayer breakfast under new management

President Joe Biden attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast on Thursday in Washington and delivered a message of unity.
3 days ago
FILE: Groundhog handler AJ Derume holds Punxsutawney Phil, who saw his shadow, predicting a late sp...
Associated Press

Phil’s Groundhog Day prediction: 6 more weeks of winter

A furry critter in a western Pennsylvania town has predicted six more weeks of winter during an annual Groundhog Day celebration.
3 days ago

Sponsored Articles

vintage photo of lighting showroom featuring chandeliers, lamps, wall lights and mirrors...
Lighting Design

History of Lighting Design | Over 25 Years of Providing Utah With the Latest Trends and Styles

Read about the history of Lighting Design, a family-owned and operated business that paved the way for the lighting industry in Utah.
Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
‘Red flag laws’ offer tool for preventing some gun violence