What is a red flag law and why is it being lifted after the Colorado shooting?
Speaking at a press conference, Colorado Springs officials have not confirmed that the suspect in the Club Q shooting was the same man who threatened his mother with a bomb last year, despite the same age and name. They also declined to say whether a red flag law – whereby authorities can remove firearms from a potentially dangerous person – should have been applied because of such an incident.
Mayor John Suthers (R) said he would ‘caution against assuming that the circumstances of this case would lead to the application of the red flag law – we don’t know’.
The Colorado law, passed in 2019, allows authorities to seize weapons from people deemed dangerous to themselves or the community. Had it been triggered after the bomb threat was reported, authorities would have temporarily seized the suspect’s weapons.
“Law enforcement, in appropriate circumstances, should take advantage and use the law,” Suthers said.
But not all jurisdictions apply the red flag law in the same way. El Paso County, Colorado, where the 2021 threat was reported, signaled its opposition to the law in 2019 by declaring itself a “Second Amendment Preservation County.”
Police have also not yet clarified how or when the shooter acquired the weapons.
No formal charges were brought after the 2021 bomb threat incident, and the records were sealed – under a state law that allows certain charges to be automatically sealed. arrest that were denied, 4th Judicial District Attorney Michael Allen said.
“The idea behind it is that this person shouldn’t have to carry that charge around for the rest of their life if there’s no way to convict them on that charge,” Allen said.
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That same law “requires us to say in response to questions about it that no such record exists,” Allen said. “That’s the design behind it, I know that’s an unsatisfactory answer, but that’s the status of the law as it stands right now.”
Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, exist in 19 states and the District of Columbia. They have gained rare bipartisan traction in Congress as a way to reduce the risk of mass shootings, but also to enforce the Second Amendment. In June, President Biden signed bipartisan legislation to encourage more states to enact red flag laws.
Although implementation varies widely by state, red flag laws have been shown to prevent suicides and, in some cases, possibly prevent mass shootings, according to preliminary research.
Florida’s version only allows law enforcement officials to ask the courts to take someone’s guns away, while those in Maryland and DC allow mental health providers to go to court. New York allows school officials and Hawaii allows colleagues. The Colorado version allows law enforcement or members of the person’s family or household to petition judges.
A 2018 study showed that red flag laws were associated with a 7.5% decrease in gun-related suicides in Indiana and a 13.6% reduction in Connecticut, although the decrease of the latter state was offset by an increase in suicides without firearms.
A 2020 study in King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, found that red flag laws were successful in removing weapons from people who had shown intent to commit a shooting. mass in five cases. A 2019 study reported that California’s red flag law allowed authorities to seize weapons in 21 cases involving individuals who had sworn to shoot others.