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In-Depth: Biden calls for red flag laws on state, federal level

Holding Gun
Posted at 6:05 PM, Apr 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-08 19:33:15-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — One aspect of President Biden's gun violence plan announced on Thursday focuses on the passage of red flag laws on the state and federal levels.

Extreme risk protection order (ERPO) or red-flag laws are aimed at keeping guns out of the hands of people in crisis who may pose a danger to themselves or others.

"These laws allow police or a family member to petition a court in their jurisdiction and say I want you to temporarily remove from the following people any firearm that they possess because they're danger," President Biden explained.

Advocates argue the legislation can prevent mass shootings, like the one in Parkland, Florida. Nikolas Cruz, the confessed shooter, had been reported to law enforcement multiple times before he opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Currently 19 states and the District of Columbia have some version of a red flag law in place. Neither Missouri nor Kansas is included in that list.

But the president would like for that to change.

"I want to see a national red flag law and legislation to incentivize states to enact their own red flag laws," Biden said.

Attorney General Merrick Garland added that within 60 days, the Justice Department will publish model ERPO legislation for states to reference while crafting their own laws.

Studies looking at whether or not red flag laws stop mass shootings are limited.

However, a case study of California's legislation found it was used 21 times in a two-year period to disarm people who threatened mass shootings.

There is much more evidence showing ERPO laws can prevent suicide.

A 2018 study found a 7.5% reduction in firearm suicides in Indiana following enactment of a red flag law.

In Connecticut, there was a 13.7% decrease tied to the legislation.

Polls have shown red flag laws garner bipartisan support.

A survey conducted in 2019 by APM Research Lab/Guns & America/Call to Mind revealed 77% of Americans surveyed supported family-initiated ERPOS, and 70% supported ones initiated by law enforcement. Among Republicans surveyed, 70% supported allowing family members to seek court orders, and 60% supported allowing police to do so.

However, the National Rifle Association has criticized red flag laws in practice, arguing they violate due process and take guns away from people who have not committed crimes.

The 41 Action News I-Team reached out to governors on both sides of the state line to see if they would heed Biden's call to pass ERPO legislation.

In reaction to the press conference, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mike Parson wrote that the Biden administration is threatening Second Amendment rights, and the governor has never wavered in his support for those rights.

"I firmly believe in protecting Missourians' second amendment rights and will continue working with federal, state, local, and community partners to protect the citizens of our state. My administration and I have rolled up our sleeves, gotten to work, and identified the immediate actions we can take at the state level to keep Missouri citizens safe, while still protecting their second amendment rights," a statement from Gov. Parson read.

A spokesperson for Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas did not respond to our inquiry before the time of publication.

However, passage of a red flag law could face an uphill battle in Kansas. During session last year, a state lawmaker from Columbus proposed an anti-red flag act, which would prevent the enforcement of ERPOs.

The bill died in committee. However, lawmakers in Oklahoma successfully passed similar legislation.

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