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The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence has been instrumental in the passage of Extreme Risk Laws — sometimes referred to as “red flag laws.” Extreme Risk Laws allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from individuals demonstrating behavioral risk factors for dangerousness. Extreme Risk Laws also prevent these individuals from purchasing additional guns.
Which States have Extreme Risk Laws?
Only fourteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted Extreme Risk-Style Laws: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. All laws are in effect except for New Jersey and New York, which go into effect on September 1, 2019 and August 24, 2019 respectively.
History of Extreme Risk Laws
The Extreme Risk Law is a policy tool that was developed in 2013 by the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy and is based on Connecticut’s risk warrant law. Passed in 1999, Connecticut’s risk warrant grants law enforcement the clear legal authority to temporarily remove firearms from individuals when there is probable cause to believe they are at a significant risk of harm to self or others. The Extreme Risk Law, on the other hand, allows law enforcement and family members to petition for such orders.
The first Extreme Risk Law (known as a Gun Violence Restraining Order) was enacted into law after the deadly shooting on the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in 2014. The shooter had exhibited dangerous behaviors prior to the shooting, and his parents shared their concerns with his therapist who contacted law enforcement. The police briefly interviewed him but had no legal authority to intervene. Situations like this leave family members and law enforcement with limited options. An extreme risk law provides a legal process to prevent tragedies from occurring.
Research Supporting Efficacy of Extreme Risk Laws
A recent analysis of Connecticut’s risk-warrant law by Dr. Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University, with a team of nine other researchers, adds to the evidence for risk-based firearms removal laws by demonstrating that such policies are promising and effective tools to save lives.
In the first 14 years of Connecticut’s risk-warrant law (1999-2013):
● 762 risk-warrants were issued, with increasing frequency after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
● Police found firearms in 99% of cases.
● Police removed an average of seven guns per subject.
And notably, the researchers estimated that for every 10-20 risk warrants issued, one life was saved.
Extreme Risk Law Toolkit
Extreme Risk Laws are now in effect in 14 states — and are being considered in several more. In response to the increased interest in these laws, the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence has joined Giffords and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility to launch a state legislative toolkit. The toolkit, which is designed to help enact and implement Extreme Risk Laws across the country, aims to reach both advocates and legislators.