Skip to main content

Red Flag Laws

Sensible measures or the road to oppression?

Red Flag Laws

In past columns, I’ve suggested that the next round of gun control efforts were right around the corner. As we have seen, gun control advocates, politicians and the media have seized the momentum of recent mass shootings once again to advocate for stricter gun laws.

One of the proposals that seems to be gaining the most traction is an endorsement of extending so-­called “Red Flag” laws nationwide. At the time of this writing, 17 states and Washington, D.C. have Red Flag laws on the books, but what exactly do these laws do? The basics of Red Flag laws, sometimes referred to as Extreme Risk Protection Orders, are as follows:

A judge rules that an individual should be temporarily denied the right to possess a firearm because they are a danger to themselves or others. Initial orders usually last for 10-­14 days, after which a long-­term ban of between six months to a year can be imposed, depending on the state. Once such an order is in place, law enforcement officials seize all of the subject’s firearms and hold them for the duration. As with nearly any issue, state laws can vary significantly and there is no standard language in place across the nation.

I don’t disagree that there should be a mechanism in place to prohibit truly dangerous individuals from legally obtaining or possessing firearms, but the devil is always in the details. For one, such laws have to be enforced in order to be effective.


Every state that I’m aware of has involuntary commitment laws on the books whereby a court can declare someone a danger to his or herself or others. Once someone has been involuntarily committed under such circumstances, they are prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law.


In the case of the Parkland School shooter, teachers and administrators raised serious concerns about the shooter’s potential for violence more than a year before he began his murderous rampage. Under Florida’s Baker Act statute, he could have been committed by a judge and would have lost his right to possess a firearm. Instead, the school system reportedly sat on the information and did not report it to law enforcement.

My biggest concern with these laws is the lack of due process. What is the standard for seizing someone’s firearms? And what is the mechanism for them to have their rights restored if an error or unfounded accusation was made? Can the witnesses be cross-­examined during their testimony? What is the standard and burden of proof required for depriving someone of their constitutional rights? These are all serious questions that merit clear and honest answers.

As an Assistant State Attorney in Florida, I saw numerous abuses of the system that I fear will spill over into the Red Flag landscape. In divorce cases, it was common for attorneys to coach their clients into obtaining domestic violence injunctions as a tool to leverage settlement, even when there was no evidence of abuse. The subjects of the injunctions, some of whom were police officers, would be prohibited from possessing a firearm for the duration of the injunction. In the case of the officers, this meant that they could not earn a living and found themselves over a barrel.

Once the divorces were finalized, the injunctions were dropped. These situations clogged the system and likely delayed protections for real victims of domestic violence. It was just another tool used by unscrupulous attorneys to advance their clients’ interests, and if you don’t think those same lawyers won’t abuse Red Flag laws, well, I have to disagree with you.




Those who are truly a danger to their communities should be denied access to firearms, just as they have been for decades under existing law, but the process must be just, the evidence clear, the potential abuse minimized and a clear path to restoration of rights established. We should be careful when endorsing laws that could lay the groundwork for future abuses, particularly when they relate to our fundamental civil rights.

Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

Air Gun Reviews: Why Shoot Airsoft?

In this Guns & Ammo TV segment, Gun Tech Editor Richard Nance and Pro-Shooter Jim Tarr discuss the benefits of airsoft training for uniformed professionals and armed citizens alike.

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

It is unlike any other rifle on the market because it offers features no one else does; those looking for a rifle that fits like a custom-made firearm should look no further than the Benelli Lupo.

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

Shooting 600 Yards with .300 Blackout

The .300 Blackout cartridge was developed to provide greater effectiveness than a 9mm at short and medium ranges when fired from a short-barreled suppressed firearm. Just because the cartridge wasn't designed to go long doesn't mean Rifles & Optics Editor Tom Beckstrand won't take it there, using a large-format pistol, no less. Armed with SIG Sauer's 9-inch-barreled MCX Virtus Pistol loaded with Black Hills' 125-grain TMK ammunition, Beckstrand attempts to ring steel at 600 yards with help from Hornady's 4DOF ballistic calculator in this segment of “Long Range Tech.”

First Look: Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint Bolt-Action Rifle

First Look: Springfield Armory Model 2020 Waypoint Bolt-Action Rifle

At the heart of the rifle is the Model 2020 action which wish designed and built with very tight tolerances thanks to Springfield's technology-driven manufacturing capabilities The stainless steel action features an integral recoil lug, and pairs with a fluted bolt employing dual cocking cams and an enhanced extractor for high pressure loads. The blueprinted and precisely machined action allows Springfield to offer the Model 2020 with .75" MOA accuracy guarantee. Despite being a production rifle, the Model 2020 should rival more expensive custom builds.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick Sweeney compare the visibility of red and green lasers in outdoor, sunny conditions. Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light Accessories

Red vs. Green Lasers: Visibility in Bright Light

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 24, 2020

In this segment of “At The Range,” Handgunning Editor Jeremy Stafford and contributor Patrick...

Under federal law, a license is not required to make a firearm for your personal use.Ghost Guns: Why Antis Want Them Banned 2nd Amendment

Ghost Guns: Why Antis Want Them Banned

Keith Wood - December 10, 2020

Under federal law, a license is not required to make a firearm for your personal use.

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle: the Impulse.Savage Arms Impulse Rifle - First Look Rifles

Savage Arms Impulse Rifle - First Look

Joe Kurtenbach - January 05, 2021

Savage introduces a must-shoot straight-pull rifle: the Impulse.

You might be surprised how many Americans (even gun owners) think machine guns are illegal.Machine Guns — Can You Own One? Rifles

Machine Guns — Can You Own One?

Eric R. Poole - December 15, 2020

You might be surprised how many Americans (even gun owners) think machine guns are illegal.

See More Trending Articles

More 2nd Amendment

The U.S. Senate is the only part of America's legislative process that can prevent the passage of the gun-control proposals that are sure to follow a Biden victoryWhat a Senate Democratic Majority Would Have Meant for Gun Owners Politics

What a Senate Democratic Majority Would Have Meant for Gun Owners

Guns & Ammo Staff - November 05, 2020

The U.S. Senate is the only part of America's legislative process that can prevent the passage...

Guns & Ammo's annual ranking of gun-friendly states. From worst (New York) to best (Arizona), here are the best states for gun owners from data collected in 2020.Best States for Gun Owners (2020) 2nd Amendment

Best States for Gun Owners (2020)

Keith Wood - February 02, 2021

Guns & Ammo's annual ranking of gun-friendly states. From worst (New York) to best (Arizona),...

On Friday, August 14, 2020, the a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit released its opinion in Duncan vs. Becerra, a case that challenged the California ban on magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.California Magazine Ban Update 2nd Amendment

California Magazine Ban Update

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 18, 2020

On Friday, August 14, 2020, the a three-judge panel from the United States Court of Appeals...

Virginia has always been an extremely friendly environment for gun owners since Republicans took control of the Assembly more than 20 years ago, but things have changed.Gun Control in Virginia 2nd Amendment

Gun Control in Virginia

Keith Wood - July 17, 2020

Virginia has always been an extremely friendly environment for gun owners since Republicans...

See More 2nd Amendment

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now