Currently, federal law allows the block of sales and confiscation of firearms from people who have been “convicted of certain crimes, adjudicated as mentally ill or involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, or who are subject to a final domestic violence restraining order” (Everytown Research). However, a person who presents a wide range of gun violence signs, such as social media posts, violent behavior, threatening comments or even suggestions that they may be suicidal, is still legally capable of purchasing firearms without any inhibitors. In an attempt to fill in that gap, Extreme Risk Laws, also commonly referred to as “Red Flag” laws, are state by state laws that permit local law enforcement and immediate family members to “petition a court for an order”, called an Extreme Risk Protection Order, should they have reason to recognize early signs of potential gun violence.
A recent study done by researchers at the UC Davis School of Medicine revealed that “red flag laws” might just be the most successful form of modern day gun violence prevention. Following the mass school shooting in Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, a 20 year old Dakota Reed from Washington felt inspired and took to social media to vocalize his intentions to open fire at a local synagogue. Reed clearly posted pictures of his AR-15 and white supremacist captions that read “I’m shooting for 30 Jews” and that he was “fixing to shoot up”. Fortunately, the aspiring terrorist failed. When this was brought to the attention of law enforcement in Everett, however, Red Flag laws allowed for his firearms to be confiscated and Reed eventually faced a one year sentence in prison on the basis of violent threats. Additionally, those considered threats following an ERPO are placed on a probationary period in which they are prohibited from purchasing any supplemental firearms.
Most recently, 17 of the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, have some form of Red Flag laws passed. Gun reform organizations such as Everytown, March For Our Lives, The Brady Campaign and Moms Demand Action are hoping to increase that number.