In the year since Florida enacted a red flag law, Orlando lawyer Kendra Parris has defended nearly 20 clients against risk protection orders that could remove their firearms. When the law, meant to protect against people who might be a harm to themselves or others, passed after the 2018 Parkland mass shooting, she saw another opportunity for the state to potentially deprive people of their civil liberties, reports Stateline. “It’s almost like a shiny new toy for law enforcement,” she said. Florida courts have approved around 2,500 risk protection orders, found an August count by NPR. Since Parkland, at least six states and the District of Columbia have passed red flag laws. After high-profile shootings this summer in Ohio and Texas, more state lawmakers are considering such laws, as are some members of Congress.
Many law enforcement officials believe the laws save lives. For two decades, since the first such law was enacted in Connecticut, civil and gun rights advocates have protested that the seizures violate the U.S. Constitution’s due process guarantee. Most red flag laws are vague on what constitutes a “significant danger,” which gives courts broad discretion to seize firearms, Parris said. Dave Kopel of the Denver-based libertarian Independence Institute, said states have taken the approach President Donald Trump mentioned last year: “Take the guns first, go through due process second.” When it comes to seizing guns through a temporary order, the standards should be high, Kopel said. Vermont, he believes, has a fair system, which requires “specific facts” of “an imminent and extreme risk.” The situation can become precarious when loved ones can petition for the removal of firearms. Spurned former partners or family members seeking revenge might “weaponize” this tool, he said. He argues for penalties for maliciously false accusations, which several states have adopted.