- In at least nine mass shootings, suspects purchased guns despite being in a red flag state.
- Research shows that the measure can be an effective way to prevent mass shootings.
- But one researcher says the law is only powerful if it is implemented and used correctly.
As America continues to be rocked by a string of deadly mass shootings, lawmakers and the public have made Loud call for stronger federal gun laws to control gun ownership.
President Joe Biden signed into law this summer Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — The most significant gun legislation passed in decades. Part of the bill includes $750 million in federal funding for states to implement intervention programs such as gun restraint orders, colloquially known as the “red flag law.”
The scope of the law varies from state to state, but generally allows law enforcement officers, family members, and sometimes even school staff, to request that someone’s firearm be seized if they pose a danger to themselves or others.
but July 4 shooting in Highland Park, Illinoiskilling seven people and injuring dozens more, a measure that once again came into the spotlight.
The shooting suspect showed the types of problems that could trigger the Illinois red flag law enacted in 2019, According to the Chicago Tribune. However, around 2020 and 2021, he was able to buy a rifle used during an assault in a state with some of the strictest gun laws in the country, according to the Giffords Law Center’s rankings for preventing gun violence.
Insider has also identified at least 8 other shootings in which 3 or more people died in which known suspects or perpetrators have exhibited behaviors related to mental health assessors, law enforcement or family members, such as threatening themselves or the public , and purchased firearms in states with gun restraining orders.
Does this mean the red flag law doesn’t work?
“Red flag laws are intuitive laws, they’re a popular law,” said Veronica Pear, a researcher with the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program who has studied red flag laws in California , he told Insider. “And, interestingly, we can say they disarmed a lot of those who threatened mass shootings.”
When the law was used, Pear and her researchers found that the measure was effective. In California, researchers found that of the 201 cases in which the state’s gun restraint order was used, nearly 30 percent, or 58 cases, involved individuals making threats of mass shootings.
Currently, 19 states and the District of Columbia have some form of red flag law. About 16 of those jurisdictions enacted the law in 2018 or later in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida.
When California implemented its Gun Violence Restraining Order In 2016, Pear’s research found that law enforcement did not take full advantage of the measure until at least two years after it went into effect.
“That certainly explains why we issued so few orders in the first few years,” she said.
Other issues that Pear’s research team found during implementation included a lack of funding for training and, in some cases, law enforcement’s reluctance to use the law, especially in areas with a strong gun-owning culture.
“There can be cultural barriers within police departments,” Peel said. “In Colorado, we’ve seen sheriffs come out and say they’re going to refuse to apply for those orders.”
Here are a few cases of shooters slipping through the cracks of their state’s red flag laws.