Explainer: What is a “red flag” law and can it help stop mass shootings in the United States?

The United States House of Representatives, Thursday, June 9 passed a “red flag” bill aimed at prohibiting those considered dangerous to themselves or others from possessing firearms.

The bill, which passed 224/202 largely along party lines, comes in light of two devastating mass shootings in the United States that occurred in less than a fortnight. May 24, a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. May 12, 10 people were killed in a racist attack at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.

Currently, 19 US states, as well as Washington DC, have such “red flag” laws in place. The latest push is to create a similar federal law to control gun violence.

What are “red flag” laws?

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‘Extreme risk protection laws’, informally known as ‘red flag’ laws, are among the possible solutions proposed to deal with the gun violence rampant in the United States.

These laws allow courts to issue a special protection order that allows police to temporarily confiscate firearms from people who display disturbing behavior, such as issuing threats of violence. If the judge determines that they are dangerous to themselves or others, they may be prohibited from possessing or purchasing new firearms. While police and other authorities may request the order, The New York Times reports that such requests often come from family members or friends who are concerned that their loved one, who owns firearms, has discussed to shoot people or indicated suicidal thoughts.

The first “red flag” law was introduced in Connecticut in 1999, after a mass shooting in the state the previous year. According to The New York Times, the shooter had previously shown signs of emotional instability and was undergoing treatment for stress-related issues.

What is the federal “red flag” bill?

The current “red flag” bill passed Thursday, called the “Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order,” was sponsored by Georgia Democratic Rep. Lucy Mcbath. She had personally suffered from gun violence, when her teenage son, Jordan Davis, was shot and killed in 2012, following an argument over loud music played by Davis.

Currently, Washington DC and 19 states have introduced red flag laws. Prior to the 2018 school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in which 17 people were killed, only 5 states had laws like this, as reported by The New York Times.

A look at mass shootings in the United States.

Bipartisan talks are also underway in Washington to provide financial incentives to other states to pass similar laws.

Do these laws control gun violence?

Those who participate in mass shootings frequently post warning signs before the events, and proponents of “red flag” laws argue that such measures could have prevented perpetrators from accessing deadly weapons before the shootings took place. occur.

After the horrific Parkland school shooting, Florida passed a gun control law that, among other measures, also introduced a red flag law. Florida judges have issued emergency risk orders against people deemed dangerous more than 8,000 times, according to data collected by the Office of the Administrator of State Courts cited by CNN.

According to data collected by CBS News, while “red flag” laws are able to verify shootings, it also depends on how often and how stringently each state chooses to implement them. The mere existence of such laws does not necessarily translate into effective gun control.

Illinois, for example, has been criticized for failing to properly implement its 2019 “red flag” law, despite having the third-highest number of school shootings in the nation. Based on court data obtained by CBS News, only 88 such orders were issued in the state between 2020 and 2021.

The mass shooting in Buffalo, New York in May also underscored the lack of law enforcement.

In 2019, New York introduced a statewide “red flag” law, and a deadly mass shooting still occurred in 2022. The shooter allegedly made threats of violence and was also referred to a professional Mental Health. Despite this, the police did not invoke the “red flag” law against him.

Calling Buffalo a textbook case of underused “red flag” laws, John Fienblatt of the nonprofit Everytown for Gun Safety told CBS News, “It wasn’t the law’s failure. . It was the failure of law enforcement.

What happens next?

If the Federal Ordinance on Protection against Extreme Risks is approved by the Senate, it will apply throughout the country.

For a bill to pass in the United States, it must first pass by a simple majority in the House of Representatives (lower house). It must then be passed by the US Senate (upper house). After ironing out any differences that might exist between the Senate and House versions of the bill, it is then approved.

While this legislation is relatively modest and only intended to take guns away from those deemed dangerous, it faces a tough Senate test. While in the lower house the Democrats currently hold 220 seats and the Republicans 208, in the upper house the Republicans hold 50 seats against 48 Democrats (2 independents).

In an evenly divided Senate, which contains a strong Republican opposition, the bill is unlikely to get the 60 votes to advance, as reported New York Times.

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While some Republicans have expressed support for the “red flag” law, the party’s view is that the bill’s “overly broad language” supposedly restricts the Second Amendment.

The Republican Party has long championed the right of Americans to own and possess firearms, in accordance with the Second Amendment to the US Constitution which protects an individual’s right to own and bear arms. Many party members argued that the measures could be abusive and prevent an innocent person’s basic right to own firearms.

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