Story by Brandon Council
As of 2019, a total of 13 States and the District of Columbia have “Red Flag Laws” in place. Since the Parkland shooting last year, nine states have passed laws. According to Fox News, courts granted upward of 1,700 orders to seize firearms in 2018. Aimed at preventing murder and suicide, these laws are drawing a lot of attention.
In Illinois, the law passed last July became effective January 1st of this year. The Firearms Restraining Order Act allows a family member, roommate, intimate partner, or law enforcement officer to petition the court for a firearms restraining order against someone they consider a threat. There are two kinds of orders. The first is an emergency order is for a specified time: an affidavit filed by the petitioner. It must allege the gun owner poses “immediate and present danger of personal injury to himself, herself, or another”. A court hearing will be held the same or next day to determine whether it will be issued based on the affidavit alone. If the court finds reasonable doubt, a warrant will be issued, and the firearms will be seized. No notice will be given to the gun owner.
The second is a six-month order requires an affidavit to be filed by the petitioner alleging the gun owner poses “significant danger of personal injury to himself, herself, or another”. A hearing will be granted within 30 days. In a six-month order, the petitioner is required to provide evidence to the court justifying the order, along with the affidavit. If the court finds reasonable doubt, a warrant will be issued, and firearms will be seized. The gun owner would be notified of the court hearing for a six-month order but wouldn’t be entitled to provide defense. With both orders, the gun owner is entitled a one-time request to terminate the order before three months of the expiration date. A hearing would be granted where the burden of proof would fall on the gun owner to prove they don’t pose a threat. It should be noted, proof of misinformation on an affidavit is perjury.
I chose to write about the Illinois law because of its relevance to many of our readers, but red flag laws in most states are similar in nature. There are many issues with these laws. The Illinois law gives a wide range of people eligibility to file the petition. It could be that third cousin visiting for Thanksgiving and thinks guns are scary. Unfortunately, it could be a gun owner’s spouse during divorce proceedings. It could even be the nosey neighbor across the street that watches a gun enthusiast come home from the range on a regular basis with gun cases, target stands, and ammo cans. Instead of “innocent until proven guilty” it is “guilty until proven innocent.” All it takes is one disagreement and a gun owner may find himself desperately trying to prove innocence against an alleged “threat” that had no basis to begin with. Even then, a judge may claim probable cause, issue a firearms restraining order. The victim’s house is being raided, and firearms are being seized. All this could happen without the victim even knowing the cause.
This law cultivates the potential for misuse by individuals who may have a grudge against you, or, maybe even the state. All of this aside, if it worked for all suicide and murder and didn’t have the potential for misuse, it could be justifiable. Unfortunately, also, there is no real way to track statistically how effective the law is at preventing any crime. State governments are essentially virtue signaling by creating laws that pander to the anti-gun crowd who they hope will keep them in office.