‘Red Flag’ Laws Have an Impact, But Not on Mass Murder

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Four mass shootings since last October, each with double-digit death tolls, has everyone searching for solutions. One goal that apparently most can support, regardless of their position on the gun-control/gun-rights continuum, is taking firearms away from those who are considered dangerous to themselves or others, criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University writes in USA Today. Before February’s school shooting in Parkland, Fl., six states had extreme risk or “red flag” laws. Since then, given the signs of trouble exhibited by the gunman Nikolas Cruz, as many as 32 states have passed or are considering similar measures, according to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. The list of possibles includes the gun-friendly state of Texas.

A new study found that long-standing statutes in Indiana and Connecticut have resulted in substantial reductions in suicide compared with trends in other states. Lead author Aaron Kivisto of the University of Indianapolis says there were 7.5 percent fewer suicides in Indiana over the decade following the law’s passage in 2005. Connecticut’s 1999 statute was associated with a 13.7 percent reduction in firearm suicides after the Virginia Tech massacre, when enforcement was greatly enhanced. These laws have saved lives, but not necessarily the lives for which they were intended. No research has surfaced to assess the impact of risk-based firearm seizure laws in preventing homicide, much less mass murder. Domestic violence has sometimes escalated following the issuance of a restraining order. Similarly, an attempt by a frightened party to have guns taken from their threatening spouse or irrational child can precipitate the very violent act that confiscation is designed to prevent. Ironically, the crimes that generate the most passion for gun control are the least likely to be affected, Fox says. Mass killers are nothing if not determined. Should their guns be confiscated, they can find ways to acquire another.

One thought on “‘Red Flag’ Laws Have an Impact, But Not on Mass Murder

  1. This article seems to mix “suicides” with “suicides by firearm” and the difference is profound. Since firearms are deemed most reliable and painless, they’re usually used by suicidal individuals. Additionally, this article doesn’t clearly answer the question of whether suicides decline more after the new laws than they declined before the new laws.

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