red flag law

In December, Guns & America published a story looking at how Oregon’s two-year-old extreme risk protection order law was being used. The orders, known as ERPOs or “red flag laws,” allow law enforcement and family to petition a court to remove someone’s firearms if they are in danger of hurting themselves or others.

Michael Saechang/CC BY-SA 2.0

In its first month on the books, Colorado's extreme risk protection order (ERPO) law was used eight times in January.

The ERPO law, also known a red flag law, allows a family member, household member, or law enforcement to petition a judge for an order to have an individual's firearms temporarily removed and to prevent them from buying new ones. It went into effect in the state on Jan. 1.

On January 1, 2020, Colorado joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in having a “red flag” law, a provision that allows police to temporarily seize guns from someone deemed to be an immediate threat to themselves or others. But the new laws often don’t lay out a process for actually seizing the guns, leaving local law enforcement to figure out for themselves how to manage those confrontations.

Scott Franz / Capitol Coverage

Some of the biggest and most contentious laws the state legislature passed this year are going into effect on Wednesday.

Together, the new laws aim to prevent suicides and gun violence, protect hospital patients from unexpected medical bills and give local governments the power to raise their minimum wages higher than the state level.

Josh’s girlfriend broke up with him in the fall of 2017, and it hit him hard. He became depressed, started drinking and became more withdrawn. He got into a few mountain biking accidents, which his mom, Diane, thought were intentional. She thought he was trying to hurt himself.

“And then it just seemed like all of a sudden he spiraled down bad,” Diane said.

Melissa Potter was standing in her kitchen when the call came in. It was her estranged nephew, Brandon Wagshol, and she was surprised — he’d never called her before.

“When I saw his name on the caller ID, I got worried that maybe something horrible had happened,” Potter said. “Or, you know, maybe something was going on with the family that he needed to tell me about. So I picked up the phone.”

Following a series of high-profile shootings this summer, many have called on Congress to respond to mounting public pressure and enact new gun regulations after returning from the summer recess.

This week, the Democrat-led House Judiciary Committee will take a first step. The Committee is scheduled to mark up several new gun control bills that were introduced earlier this year.

At least seven people were killed and another 20 were injured in a mass shooting that stretched in and around Midland and Odessa, Texas, Saturday. The incident was the second mass shooting in that state in less than a month, following a shooting in El Paso, on Aug. 3.

Following the shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Congress is considering a bill that would encourage states to pass red flag laws. Members of Congress may want to study Florida, where it's been in place for a year and a half.

Since it was adopted there, courts have approved some 2,500 risk protection orders. That's nearly five every day, more than any other state. The Florida law allows police, acting with court approval, to temporarily seize weapons from people deemed to be at risk of harming themselves or others.

A new tool

New research shows that confiscating weapons from gun owners deemed at-risk for violence could help prevent mass shootings.

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