The White House will be encouraging states to consider enacting a law Connecticut pioneered that allows the seizure of guns from people who might hurt themselves or others, administration officials said Monday.
Connecticut passed the measure, known as a “red flag law,” in 1999, in response to a mass shooting at a state lottery office. It allows two law enforcement officers, or one state’s attorney, to petition a court for an “extreme risk protection order” to temporarily take away an individual’s guns.
A handful of other states have followed, the latest being Florida after a mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., last month left 17 dead.
Connecticut’s statute doesn’t explicitly allow family members to petition the court, unlike other states that have approved or are considering extreme risk protection orders.
Mike Lawlor, the top criminal-justice advisor to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, called the distinction a “hyper-technicality” and said nothing prohibits family members from going to the court and judges following up however they see fit.
“We believe it’s really important for law enforcement and family members to have the right to petition a court to exercise an ERPO,” a senior Trump administration official said. The official also referenced situations in which someone is going through a difficult period or has demonstrated threatening behavior that is not criminal in nature and wouldn’t elicit police involvement.
The official said the White House plans to offer technical expertise and grant money to incentivize states to take on the legislation but is still looking for an appropriate funding source.
A study on Connecticut’s red-flag law led by Jeffrey Swanson at Duke University found that between 1999 and 2013, police carried out 762 gun removals and prevented a gun suicide for every 10 to 20 seizures.
The Second Amendment is “not an unlimited right, and it doesn’t guarantee that people can have a gun any place any time,” Swanson said. “What are the appropriate limits, and I think that’s where science can help us. We have to figure out who are the people that are so risky that it is justified to limit their ability.”