Red Flag Laws

An important provision in the compromise firearms violence package being debated in the U.S. Senate is the extreme risk protection order, or red flag law. At last report the Senate package contains millions of dollars for states to create red flag laws, designed to put firearms out of the reach of individuals deemed likely to use them to harm others.

The most challenging part of such legislation is determining just who those individuals are, the likelihood that they will harm others, and the due process rights of individuals subjected to a red flag order.

During the Vermont gun control contest of 2018, the legislature and governor quietly enacted our red flag law – Title 13, chapter 85 –with at least the tacit acceptance of the defenders of firearms rights. I thought at the time that the law was exceptionally well done, in granting carefully limited powers to remove firearms from specified individuals, protect their rights, and avoid the government taking possession of the firearms in question. I would have preferred a sunset provision, to allow evaluation of the law in practice, but otherwise it was well worth enacting, especially since it focused on persons rather than on inanimate firearms. I’m not aware of any problems or abuses that have arisen since its passage.

But why is Congress throwing millions of dollars to states to pay for enactment of red flag laws? Just send them Vermont’s Act 97 of 2018.


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