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'Red Flag' Laws Must Be Enforced By Local Champions

"Red flag" laws — which allow judges to confiscate guns from people who threaten violence — tend to be toothless unless they have a local champion: A sheriff, district attorney or other authority figure who makes it their business to teach people to use them effectively, Axios reports. Coaxing states to implement red flag laws is a centerpiece of the gun bill that President Biden signed. Similar laws already on the books in Illinois and New York didn't prevent the recent mass shootings in Highland Park and Buffalo. Research shows that when police officers, educators and community leaders are encouraged to use these laws and trained in their nuances, more court orders are filed that keep firearms away from potentially dangerous people. Some 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws that enable law enforcement, family members and school officials to petition civil courts to remove firearms from people who show signs of being homicidal or suicidal.

"There’s so much important work that needs to be done in order to really take advantage of the preventive potential of these red flag laws," says Shannon Frattaroli of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health. More "red flag" protection orders are typically signed in cities and counties where schools, police departments and mental health agencies share information with one another. In Maryland, former Montgomery County Sheriff Darren Popkin "took it upon himself to develop a training protocol and program" for the state's 2018 red flag law, and "went on the road," driving around the state to train officers, Frattaroli said. In King County, Wa., senior prosecutor Kimberly Wyatt leads a unit dedicated to handling "red flag" cases.

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