State Gun Control Laws in America: A State Gun Law Guide – Red Flag Laws: The Implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders

August 12, 2019 in News by RBN Staff


After a wave of mass shootings in 2017 and 2018, one of the most fashionable pushes for gun control was the rise of so-called “red flag” laws, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs).

These red flag laws are not as novel as people think. States like Connecticut got the ball rolling in 1999, when legislators passed the nation’s very first red flag law after a shooting took place at a State Lottery headquarters. States like Indiana (2005), California (2014), Washington (2016), and Oregon (2017) have followed suit in their implementation of red flags laws.

But the political environment completely changed in late 2017 and early 2018. A string of mass shootings like the 2017 Las Vegas shooting, the Sutherland Springs church shooting, and theStoneman Douglas High School shooting rocked the political environment like never before. This commotion played perfectly into the hands of the gun control crowd in the legacy media and political establishment.

Crises – real or perceived – are the lifeblood of government expansion. Following the words of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, gun control advocates did not let these crises go to waste.

Red flag laws received an added bump from these shootings. Like clockwork, states such as Florida, Vermont, Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey,Delaware, Massachusetts, and Illinois  adopted their own red flag laws.

Red flag laws enable law enforcement to confiscate firearms from an individual who is considered a threat to themselves or others. However, these confiscatory actions can be taken based on simple allegations. An accusation from a family member, friend, or associate is enough of a justification for law enforcement officers to seize an individual’s firearms.

Potential for due process violations has emerged since red flag laws started gaining traction. Even the American Civil Liberties Union, who views the Second Amendment as a collective right as opposed to an individual right, has expressed concern about how red flags will essentially create Minority Report-like scenarios in America. Individuals could see their rights stripped just based on speculation on the part of petitioners and a judge.

Subsequently, the accused are compelled to take their accusers to court, even though the accused has never been charged with or convicted of a crime. To make matters worse, the defendant could have their weapons seized without even a hearing before a judge. Months could go by before a gun owner wins back his gun rights in court.

Even in their early stages of implementation, red flag laws generated controversy. Around 5 a.m. on November 5, 2018, two police officers approached 61-year-old Gary Willis’s house. Once at Willis’s door, they knocked and waited for Willis to respond. In a state of shock, Willis answered, and the two officers happened to be serving Willis a court order to turn his guns over to authorities in accordance with Maryland’s recently signed red flag law.

In a tragic turn of events, this encounter with law enforcement quickly got out of hand. A struggle ensued between Willis and the two officers, which resulted in Willis’s death. After this controversial shooting, Anne Arundel County Police Chief Timothy Altomare jumped to the police officers’ defense stating they “did the best they could with the situation they had.”

Maryland’s red flag law, which received Republican Governor Larry Hogan’s signature, was implemented in October 2018. In its first month, there were 114 firearms seizure requests.