- In at least nine mass shootings, the suspects bought guns despite being in red flag law states.
- Studies have shown that the measure can be an effective way to prevent mass shootings.
- But the law is only as strong as it is applied and used correctly, one researcher said.
As the US continues to be rocked by a string of deadly mass shootings, lawmakers and the public have loud calls to loosen gun ownership through stronger federal gun laws.
This summer, President Joe Biden signed into law the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act — the most important gun bill passed in decades. Part of the bill includes $750 million in federal funding for states to implement intervention programs such as gun restriction orders, more commonly known as “red flag laws.”
The scope of the law varies by state, but it generally allows law enforcement, family members and sometimes school personnel to request the confiscation of someone’s firearms if they pose a danger to themselves or others.
But 4th of July shootings in Highland Park, Illinoisthat killed seven people and injured dozens more, put this measure in the spotlight once again.
The shooting suspect presented the types of issues that could have triggered Illinois’ red flag law enacted in 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. But around 2020 and 2021, he was able to buy the rifle used in the attack in a state with some of the strongest gun laws in the country, according to scores from the Giffords Law Center on Gun Violence Prevention. arms.
Insider also found at least eight other shootings with three or more victims in which the suspect or shooter was known to exhibit behaviors such as threats to themselves or the public by mental health evaluators, law enforcement or members of the family , and purchased a firearm in a state with a gun restriction ban.
Does this mean the red flag laws don’t work?
“Red flag laws are an intuitive law, and they’re a popular law,” Veronica Peer, a researcher at the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, who has studied red flag laws in California, told Insider. “And, anecdotally, they disarmed a lot of people who were threatening mass shootings.”
When the law is used, Pear and her researchers found that the measure can be effective. Looking at California, the researchers found that of the 201 cases in which the state’s gun restriction orders were used, nearly 30 percent of those, or 58 cases, involved people 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, following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
When California implemented it Gun Violence Restriction Orders in 2016, Pear’s study found that law enforcement did not take full advantage of the measure at least two years after it went into effect.
“That would of course explain why we had so few orders issued in the first couple of years,” he said.
Other issues Pear’s research team found with enforcement included a lack of funding for training and, in some cases, reluctance by law enforcement to use the law, especially in areas where there is a strong gun culture.
“There can be cultural barriers within police departments,” Pear said. “In Colorado, we’ve seen sheriffs come out and say they would refuse to apply for these orders.”
Here are several instances where shooters slipped through the cracks of their state’s red flag laws.