Gun-seizure laws grow in pop­u­lar­ity since Park­land shoot­ing in Fla.

Yuma Sun - - HOME SERVICES -

In the year since the deadly mass shoot­ing at a Florida high school, more and more states have passed laws mak­ing it eas­ier to take guns away from peo­ple who may be sui­ci­dal or bent on vi­o­lence against oth­ers, and courts are is­su­ing an un­prece­dented num­ber of seizure or­ders across the coun­try.

Sup­port­ers say these “red flag” laws are among the most promis­ing tools to re­duce the nearly 40,000 sui­cides and homi­cides by firearm each year in the U.S. Gun ad­vo­cates, though, say such mea­sures un­der­mine their con­sti­tu­tional rights and can re­sult in peo­ple be­ing stripped of their weapons on false or vin­dic­tive ac­cu­sa­tions.

Nine states have passed laws over the past year al­low­ing po­lice or house­hold mem­bers to seek court or­ders re­quir­ing peo­ple deemed threat­en­ing to tem­po­rar­ily sur­ren­der their guns, bring­ing the to­tal to 14. Sev­eral more are likely to fol­low in the months ahead. More than 1,700 or­ders al­low­ing guns to be seized for weeks, months or up to a year were is­sued in 2018 by the courts af­ter they de­ter­mined the in­di­vid­u­als were a threat to them­selves or oth­ers, ac­cord­ing to data from sev­eral states ob­tained by The As­so­ci­ated Press. The ac­tual num­ber is prob­a­bly much higher since the data was in­com­plete and didn’t in­clude Cal­i­for­nia.

The laws gained mo­men­tum af­ter it was learned that the young man ac­cused in the Florida at­tack, Niko­las Cruz, was widely known to be men­tally trou­bled yet had ac­cess to weapons, in­clud­ing the as­sault-style ri­fle used to kill 17 stu­dents and staff mem­bers last Valen­tine’s Day at Park­land’s Mar­jory Stone­man Dou­glas High School.

“Park­land would never have hap­pened if Florida had a red flag law,” Linda Beigel Schul­man said dur­ing a re­cent news con­fer­ence with New York Gov. An­drew Cuomo, who is ex­pected to sign his state’s new law any day. Her son, Scott Beigel, was a teacher and coach killed dur­ing the Park­land at­tack.

Florida passed a red flag law as part of a gun-con­trol pack­age in the wake of the shoot­ing. Aside from New York, Delaware, Illi­nois, Mary­land, Mas­sachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Is­land and Ver­mont also have adopted vari­a­tions since then. Cal­i­for­nia, Con­necti­cut, In­di­ana, Ore­gon and Washington al­ready had sim­i­lar laws.

Sev­eral states are de­bat­ing them this year, in­clud­ing New Mex­ico, where two stu­dents were killed in a school shoot­ing in De­cem­ber 2017.

Mike Heal, po­lice chief in the town of Aztec, re­sponded to the shoot­ing at the lo­cal high school and tes­ti­fied in sup­port of the red flag pro­posal, say­ing, “I know I can­not keep ev­ery­one safe, but give me the tools to try.”

The laws are be­ing in­voked fre­quently in many of the states that have them.

Au­thor­i­ties in Mary­land granted more than 300 pe­ti­tions to tem­po­rar­ily dis­arm in­di­vid­u­als in the three months af­ter the state’s law went into ef­fect Oct. 1. Mont­gomery County Sher­iff Dar­ren Pop­kin said the cases in­cluded four “sig­nif­i­cant” threats of school shoot­ings, and that a ma­jor­ity of the peo­ple who were sub­jects of the or­ders were suf­fer­ing from men­tal health crises.

“These or­ders are not only be­ing is­sued ap­pro­pri­ately, they are sav­ing lives,” Pop­kin told law­mak­ers last month.

In Ver­mont, a pros­e­cu­tor ob­tained an or­der to strip gun rights from a teenager re­leased from jail af­ter be­ing ac­cused of plot­ting a school shoot­ing.

Florida courts granted more than 1,000 or­ders in the first nine months of its new law. Broward County, which in­cludes Park­land, has been at the fore­front, ac­count­ing for roughly 15 per­cent of cases statewide. Among the first peo­ple sub­jected to the law was Cruz’s younger brother, who au­thor­i­ties said was show­ing signs of vi­o­lence af­ter al­legedly tres­pass­ing at the high school af­ter the shoot­ing. In an­other case, Florida au­thor­i­ties took dozens of firearms from a bailiff ac­cused of threat­en­ing other court­house em­ploy­ees.

Con­necti­cut has the na­tion’s long­est-stand­ing red flag law, which went into ef­fect in 1999 af­ter a mass shoot­ing at the state lot­tery of­fice. Au­thor­i­ties there say new aware­ness of the law con­trib­uted to a spike in 2018 in war­rants is­sued to take away weapons — 268, the high­est to­tal on record, ac­cord­ing to court data.

The rise re­flects the more ag­gres­sive pos­ture po­lice have adopted since the 2012 mass shoot­ing at Sandy Hook El­e­men­tary School in New­town and other at­tacks.

One study found that the Con­necti­cut law re­duced gun sui­cides by more than 10 per­cent in re­cent years and that a sim­i­lar law in In­di­ana led to a 7.5 per­cent drop.

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