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What Are Red Flag Laws? (And What It Means for Gun Owners)

What the heck are "red flag laws" and how do they affect you? We cover it in layman's terms as well as the states with them already...plus what's next.

Disclaimer:  While the information provided here is legal in nature, it is not to be construed as legal advice, and is for educational and entertainment purposes 

With the increased news coverage of gun-related crimes and mass-shootings in the last few years, some politicians have unfortunately decided to capitalize on the situation to try and enact new firearms laws. 

Handgun Laws & Requirements

While these laws are often presented as “common-sense gun control”, which few people are actually against, to the law-abiding gun owners, the actual language of many of these laws doesn’t seem to make much sense at all.  

The more blatant attempts to erode gun rights, such as blanket bans on AR-15 rifles, get the most coverage in the news, and (thankfully) have a tough time getting passed into law.  Some of the lesser-known laws, however, such as “red flag” laws, are getting through, and fans of the 2nd Amendment everywhere should be just as concerned.

Red Flag Laws (4)
The only attachment you’ll ever need. Source

Table of Contents


Flag on the Play

So what exactly is a red flag law?  A red flag law officially goes by many different names, from an “Extreme Risk Protection Order”, or just “Risk Protection Order”, to “Risk Warrant”, or “Gun Violence Restraining Order”, and, our personal favorite, “Proceeding for the Seizure and Retention of a Firearm”.   

All of the fancy naming conventions aside, a red flag law is essentially a law that allows someone to report a person if they think that person might be a danger to himself or others. 

As a result of the report, that person will have to turn in all firearms and will be prohibited from further interaction with firearms until he can prove he is in fact not a danger to himself or others.

Of course, if the person chooses not to turn in their firearms voluntarily, the law allows for the confiscation of the firearms. For the public good, of course.  

SWAT Entry Team
Knock Knock, we’re here for your guns! (tactical-life.com)

On the surface, this seems like a reasonable type of law to have.  But that’s how they get you! Like most “common-sense gun control” laws, when you dig down deeper into the details, it becomes less “common sense” and more “gun control”.  

Stating the Rules

Since there is no national red flag law currently, all of these laws are being enacted at the state level.  Because of this, the exact reporting requirements and enforcement procedures vary from state to state.  

In some states, the initial reporting of an individual has to be made by law enforcement officers, while others allow anyone to report an individual suspected of being a danger to himself or others. 

It’s not difficult to see how this could be abused by an anti-gun activist trying to have guns confiscated from law-abiding gun owners, or even just someone reporting their neighbor over an argument.

Once the initial report is made, the individual is prohibited from interacting with firearms and deprived of his firearms for anywhere from a day to a few weeks, with some laws allowing for an extension of the time period for up to a full year. 

All of this taken together is a recipe for a gun-grabbing disaster.    

Red Flag Laws (3)
Yellow flag laws sound more reasonable

Where Did They Come From?

While it may seem like these laws are springing up in many states all of a sudden, red flag laws are a relatively recent phenomenon. 

The first red flag law was passed back in 1999 in Connecticut in response to a shooting at the state Lottery headquarters.

Connecticut state flag
Connecticut State Flag

After that, other states began to gradually adopt their own versions, often in response to shootings, as part of efforts to show the government was addressing what they viewed as a firearms issue.  

Fast forward to 2019, and there are now 17 states with red flag laws on the books, with other states trying to get their own versions passed as well. 

States with Red Flag Laws

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Colorado 
  • Delaware
  • Florida 
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Nevada
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington
  • Washington, D.C.
Red Flag Laws (1)
About 17 more states than there should be. Source

Before we get any smart alecs chiming in down at the comments section, yes, D.C. is technically not a state, but they dislike the 2nd Amendment just as much as any anti-2A state in the country.  

How Did We Get Here?

While most of the list reads like a who’s who of anti-2A states, including perennial favorites such as California and New Jersey, some of the more typically 2A-friendly states like Florida are also on there.  No one is safe!

It shouldn’t be a surprise that states like California have added red flag laws to the books to complement their other gun control laws, but states like Florida have often been considered relatively free states, with “shall-issue” concealed carry licenses. 

So what’s the deal?

Laws like red flag laws attempt to appeal to the “common sense” aspect of gun control, and understandably, when tragic incidents such as the school shooting in Parkland, FL occur, people expect something to be done to protect us and our families, and to make sure these incidents can never happen again.

Many people look to the politicians to pass laws to address the issues, and unfortunately, more often than not, we get knee-jerk reactions in the form of proposals to ban all firearms and attempts to demonize pro-gun groups such as the NRA. 

Without subjecting you guys to a 5 page discussion of mental health issues in the country, it’s easy to see why politicians would prefer to pass red flag laws and be able to say something is being done by confiscating firearms, rather than talk about intangible efforts to address the underlying mental issues that seem to be at the root of many of the recently publicized shootings.

Red Flag Laws (5)
Good guys with guns keeping the bad guys away. A study says so!

But All Is Not Lost!

While no one is arguing against trying to reduce, and hopefully eliminate shootings, not everyone believes red flag laws are the way to go about it.  It should come as no surprise then, that with the rise of these red flag laws comes “2nd Amendment sanctuaries”.

These counties and cities aren’t officially designated as 2nd Amendment sanctuaries, however, because that’s just called being part of the United States and following the US Constitution.  

A play on the “sanctuary cities” and states popping up across the country that has vowed to ignore federal immigration laws and requests for assistance by ICE, these “2nd Amendment” sanctuary counties and cities have similarly vowed to ignore any and all confiscation orders under the red flag laws of their respective states.   

One of the most recent examples of the 2A sanctuary counties was in response to the red flag law passed in Colorado in April of 2019. 

Over half the counties in the state, as well as some individual cities, have officially passed resolutions declaring themselves 2nd Amendment sanctuary counties and cities, with the sheriffs choosing to side with the gun owners rather than following firearms confiscation orders.  

Red Flag Laws (2)
Colorado 2nd Amendment Sanctuary Counties in Red – over half the state! Source

Of course, in the case of Colorado, like many other similar situations happening across the country, many of the 2A sanctuaries have a majority politically conservative population, though some of the more moderate and middle-of-the-road counties have also begun hopping on board.  

What’s Next?

In the unfortunately often-politicized news cycles of today, whenever tragic events such as the shootings in El Paso, TX or Dayton, OH occur, vocal portions of the public cry out for additional regulations on firearms, typically in the form of “universal background checks” or “assault weapons bans”, and now, “red flag” laws, under the belief that these types of laws will ensure shooting never occur again. 

Many politicians on both sides of the aisle, under pressure from these vocal segments of the population and the media, are understandably quick to join in on the call for new gun laws.    

With more states continuing to pass, or trying to pass, red flag laws and politicians at the federal level discussing a national red flag law, there will undoubtedly be lawsuits filed in response to the firearms confiscations, and possibly against the 2A sanctuary counties and cities. 

At the very least, state legislatures will be upset their gun control laws aren’t being enforced, and law-abiding gun owners will be upset at their firearms being taken away so easily.

Putting aside the issue of whether additional background checks beyond those already being performed will serve any purpose, and the discussion of whether civilians currently have access to “assault weapons” as it is, the sad truth remains that enacting more gun laws to stop those who commit crimes, i.e. ignore and break the law, will not stop criminals.

Instead, it will only serve to put additional restrictions on the law-abiding citizens who wish to maintain the right to hunt however they wish, or simply have a means of self-defense as our Founding Fathers intended.  

Red Flag Laws (1)

While no one is against eliminating gun violence such as mass shootings, the disagreement often lies in how to go about accomplishing this goal.  As any law-abiding firearms owner knows, a firearm is simply a tool to accomplish a purpose, whether it is hunting, self-defense, or defending the citizenry against a tyrannical government. 

Like any other tool, it must be treated with the respect and care it deserves and used in a responsible manner. And also like any other tool, it can be misused, as seen by the rise of crimes involving knives, acid, and even cars, in Great Britain, where civilian gun-ownership is near impossible and gun crimes are essentially non-existent.

Ultimately, it may take a couple of especially egregious abuses of the red flag laws being enforced for the problems with these laws to be adequately addressed, either by amending them to prevent future abuse of the laws, or to focus on the underlying mental health issues, rather than trying to find a better-fitting Band-Aid. 

If all else fails, the issue may need to follow the route of other recent firearms laws and go to the Supreme Court for a final say.  

In the meantime, it is the responsibility of every gun-owner and potential gun-owner to follow the 4 rules of firearms safety, and to make sure your firearms are either secured on or near your person, or securely stowed away in a trusty safe, to make sure no authorized individuals ever gain access to your firearms to use in an unsafe or illegal manner. 

What are your thoughts on red flag laws? Are we headed for a national red flag law? Let us know in the comments! If you’re interested in concealed carry, take a look at our Complete CCW Guide!

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26 Leave a Reply

  • Commenter Avatar
    william warren

    This law is such a lie, that if they want too, down the road make it that any Veteran with PTSD will have a Red Flag and the ATF will Try and Seize your weapons. They want the country to become unarmed so they can control it. They will use it.

    May 25, 2022 6:39 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    You need to add Arizona to your list. For even tho our Legislature has rejected attempts to make Red Flad laws here, our AZ Supreme Court made up its own Red Flag "Law" by way of a Rule of Procedure. So in a (civil) Injunction Against Harassment, our SC has told its judges that they can take your guns away, absent any provision in our civil IAH law. (Without even a hearing! (Ex parte).)

    July 14, 2021 12:55 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    hi, what about Military Veterans who served well and suffer from PTSD? are you going to take away their right to own a firearm?

    August 27, 2020 9:14 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    tim carlo

    So, whats keeping government officials enacting the "Red Flag Law" on individuals in their states just for the hell of it? and say your neighbor decides he don't like you because you kicked his dog/cat? Is there any proof this neighbor needs to throw the flag on you or just fill out the form and you lose all your guns? This is a total gun grab and anti-second amendment.

    February 18, 2020 7:07 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    The media— and ironically, the president of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre— are pushing the narrative that people with mental health conditions are inherently dangerous and ought to be blacklisted from purchasing or possessing a firearm via "an active national database of the mentally ill." Mr. LaPierre seems oblivious to the fact that 43.8 million people in America have a diagnosable mental disorder and would be prohibited possessors under his proposed law. The media, on the other hand, is very much aware of this, and they would love nothing more than a disarmament of 43.8 million citizens.

    It would appear that most people think that it's just "common sense" that people with a history of mental health issues should be prohibited from gun ownership. They are blissfully unaware, however, that only 4% of mentally ill people are violent, a figure that is only slightly higher than the so-called "normal" population. The media has also deliberately made mass murderers the official poster boys of mental illness, and the NRA and the general public seem to have embraced this narrative.

    Red Flag laws are only the beginning. Soon, there will be many states that will enact laws that violate HIPPA protections by requiring all mental health patients to be reported to the State. Prescription records will be made available to the authorities, too, and will be used as evidence that someone is mentally ill. New York has already enacted such laws, and these will no doubt become the model for other states to follow.

    Of course, those who are deemed by the State to be too crazy to own a gun will be deemed sane enough to be charged with a felony for having one— all in the name of protecting us from the imaginary monsters that are hiding under our beds.

    January 31, 2020 8:37 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Meesha Fike

    what really upsets me is that the person who is turning in of said "person who is a danger to themselves or others" they don't have to pass any kind of background check themselves! it's ridiculous to have any background check at all in my opinion.. if someone has a medical history of depression, they shouldn't be turned down from buying a firearm.. even if they do hurt themselves, it's not up to someone else to say that they can't buy a gun, even if they are at risk of hurting themselves and I say that as a widow who's husband shot themselves

    September 26, 2019 4:06 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    the way I see it is that a lot of parents don't take the time to teach their children abut guns. when my children were probably 5 or 6 years old I took them out to a range. I taught them and my wife about guns and what they can o. I helped my children hold the weapon and let them pull the trigger. my wife love the gun and became quiet a good shot. I could lay my gun on the coffee table and neither one would touch it without asking first. later in life my children made their on decision about guns. knowledge is a wonderful thing. I don't hear of lots of parents that want to tech their children about guns so they really don't know what they can and will do. just my thoughts of how things has gotten out of hands. thank you.

    August 9, 2019 3:44 pm
    • Commenter Avatar
      Meesha Fike

      my dad taught me to shoot and he and I both had my kids shoot at a very young age.. my little one was afraid at first but I needed them to realize what the gun was capable of and that it was for protecting us from bad people and for hunting.. respect for the weapon at a young age is key

      September 26, 2019 4:11 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    It's a slippery slope for sure. I guess my main source of frustration is that I feel that the media uses "mass shootings" as fuel for their vendetta against all guns. In 2018, 340 people were killed in "Mass Shootings" (defined as 4 fatalities in one event). That is .023% of gun related deaths. Let's be honest, while heartbreaking, it is statistically irrelevant in a country with a population of 327,200,000. (With more than one gun per person).

    There's ~390 million guns in the USA and 14-15k people a year are killed by them in ALL cases. Cigarettes kill 480,000 a year, alcohol kills 88,000 a year, and overdoses kill 70,000. Heroin alone kills as many people per year as all gun deaths combined. Hopefully they make Heroin illegal soon, so all those senseless deaths can be reduced to zero immediately. (sarcasm)

    I have hunted my whole life, I have my concealed carry, own multiple guns, play tons of videogames, and listen to metal music. I have never and will never harm another human being unless it is in defense of myself or my family. Guns are NOT the problem. Terrible people are the problem, and they aren't going away just because the law limits a magazine to 10 rounds or takes away guns from citizens who have done nothing wrong based on the accusations of others.

    Stay safe, and shoot straight fellas,

    August 9, 2019 5:51 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Har Mar

    Just the opposite should be done teachers should be trained people should be taught the proper use of firearms
    One of the shootings correction one of the mass shootings a teacher shielded her kindergarten students with her body if she had a handgun she might still be alive today, a person could argue more police will be shot at if civilians with good intentions have firearms again people need to be taught proper use of firearms and each other if a teacher comes to school dressed in body armor and is carrying many firearms that should concern us
    There are many people that should not even consider having a firearm on their body or in their use, most of us are descendants from individuals that learned to survive and had to survive with Firearms if you go back early 1900s 1800s without a firearm chances are you didn't survive there are people hear that rely on their firearms for hunting or harvesting I too was taught to hunt to survive in the wild very young age I learned to respect firearms.
    I could not imagine what would happen if a dictator as with the family in North Korea found out all guns were being confiscated from American citizens if we continue going the way we are that's what's going to happen
    I cannot imagine what would happen if you had people MS-13 and similar what would happen. I had the privilege of growing up in the ghetto in the Bronx I've had a very similar privilege of working in the ghetto Albany New York sit down and talk to some of the people that live there they don't like coming out into the country cuz they know the general public has firearms in their house and their wives Mothers Daughters granddaughters are probably just as good at using a firearm as the man of the house

    August 9, 2019 4:32 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Steven V Hathaway

    If more people would open carry, for example a shooter comes into a public place like Walmart and sees people with weapons on their hip He's not gonna open fire on a crowd that is not totally defenseless.

    August 9, 2019 3:01 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Kip Stack

      I agree with you 100%. I think if all teachers were allowed to open carry, maybe a glock 9 mm. Or one of the great facimilie air gun look alikes, the kids would not know who's carring real or fake guns and neither would a woodbe shooter. Thus, maybe the shooter would not think that those teachers were soft targets and go somewhere else ?

      August 14, 2019 7:45 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Not sure about other states but in Washington State the order has to be signed by a Judicial Officer, much like a Search Warrant, and there has to be probable cause/concern. This article makes it sound like anyone could make an accusation and it would immediately result in your loss of 2A rights. Having said that, these are still horrible laws that are almost impossible to enforce and I have not seen any data to suggest they work. In Washington they are on the civil side of legislation and a search warrant can not be issued to make sure the person complies with the order. This makes it voluntary and how many criminals will admit and give up a gun they are not allowed to possess.

    August 7, 2019 9:25 am
    • Commenter Avatar
      Richard Hyman

      Mac, In Nevada the Order of Confiscation has to be signed by a judge BUT the accusation can originate from dang near anywhere (anyone with significant emotional bond to the individual....family, ex wife, ex boyfriend/girlfriend, baby momma, etc) so you can see the obvious bias that could be introduced there. More insulting is that with the exception of allegations of drug abuse, the accusations do NOT have to be substantiated...and that just seems totally crazy to me. (BTW, I agree with your viewpoint on the laws, I just wanted to point out just how crazy they can be from state to state and how I hope nobodies state uses Nevada as their format).

      August 7, 2019 12:36 pm
      • Commenter Avatar

        *The accusations do not have to be substantiated in the initial accusation that allows the confiscation of all guns for up to a year. There will be a day in court and at that point the allegations have to be substantiated.

        Apologies, just wanted to clarify.

        August 7, 2019 12:38 pm
        • Commenter Avatar

          Of course if the accused wants to retain (or re-gain, depending upon how you see it) the right to own a weapon, the accused almost certainly must employ and rely upon a competent attorney to represent him/her in court....$$$$$$. The two most likely consequences of requiring an in-substance use of legal representation are (a) the accused being compelled to incur a stiff economic penalty for re-gaining the right to own a weapon (what irony! The accused has to pay in order to re-gain that which the court has ruled the accused had the right to do in the first place), or (b) the accused not being able to pay for legal counsel and thus losing the right to regain a privilege he/she had under the constitution due solely to an unsubstantiated/un-adjudicated claim by a (probably undisclosed) third party (Salem witch trials come to mind?). Neither of these outcomes makes sense to 2nd amendment proponents, yet both are preferable outcomes in the view of opponents of 2nd amendment rights. Don't get me wrong. I do NOT support gun ownership by those who aren't "worthy" of that right But I also see great difficulty in judicially determining "worthiness" without, at least initially, taking away the accused's legal rights. My personal bottom line: constitutionally granted rights should always win. And because of this, I also support extremely punitive punishments for abusers of fire arms. Let's face it, laws only inhibit law-abiding citizens from violating them. Lawless individuals are entirely unfazed by criminal statutes. Thus for lawless individuals, gun laws serve only to determine the severity of a violator's punishment. And that, my friends, is a cost of the individual freedoms guaranteed under our constitution.

          August 9, 2019 7:09 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    A thought that I had is that not only will criminals not follow the law, but they could potentially use the law to their advantage. A criminal could scope out a home, utilize the red flag law to have the guns in a home removed, and now they could go in knowing there is little chance for resistance.

    August 7, 2019 8:21 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    Considering most of these shootings occur in no gun zones I am curious as to why these politicians think the criminals and psychos will follow the laws? I am also wondering why I am not hearing anyone on the left crying out for the mass shooting that happened in Chicago yesterday. Completely "Gun Free" city did not stop the hospital from having to stop accepting trauma victims because they were full. Where was Obama and the rest of the left there? Not to mention the dozens of people killed almost every weekend there.

    August 7, 2019 5:28 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Mr. Gray

    New Red Flag laws will get passed, then more mass shootings by mentally-scrambled people will occur.
    What then?
    They’ll come for your guns, what else? And they’ll be able to say, “We tried letting you keep your guns and it didn’t work.”
    Red flag laws are merely one step along the path to total bans and confiscation.

    August 7, 2019 1:25 am
  • Commenter Avatar

    I’m curious as to how many cases of these red flag laws have resulted in people having their guns taken away indefinitely? I do know that over reach of law enforcement in drug cases has resulted in millions of dollars of confiscated personal property, but have not heard this to be a regular serious issue with firearms, but I’ve also never looked. Some actual stats included along with the article would have been great, not just speculation. These could definitely be abused, but I think most people would be fair in their reporting of it, I think a disgruntled neighbor is only going to report you, and have it stick, if you brandish your firearm or suggest it as a means of action. Ideally they person wouldn’t know word one about what kind of equipment you have safely secured in your home. I own a few firearms, and by no means would consider myself an enthusiast, I just enjoy shooting as something fun to go out and occasionally do.

    I do think that most bans serve very little practical purpose, and that a deep look into mental health would serve us better, but we can’t even figure out how to manage simple medicine and check ups as a country, let alone much more complex and nuanced mental issues. More stringent background checks, legit common sense(getting rid of technicalities, sbr vs. pistol, suppressors, etc) regulations, nationalized standards for CC, and some way to try and identify these people before they act out. Which would require that we as groups and individuals be willing give to have honest, open, and frank conversations about the shit that makes us uncomfortable, if we wish to see this Union survive, otherwise we are destined to rip it apart over mostly innocuous issues that don’t honestly effect most of us on the day to day.

    August 6, 2019 5:52 pm
  • Commenter Avatar
    Marcus Aurelius Tarkus

    Criminals, by definition, break laws. This is known in Philosophy 101 as a tautology. Passing new laws will simply give criminals more laws to break. However, it will also give the law-abiding more laws to obey. And that is the true object of all such anti-gun legislative exercises.

    August 6, 2019 5:41 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Tarkus: Very well spoken. The irony is lost on the liberal left. What we need is more responsibility, greater individual accountability, and less bureaucracy.

      August 6, 2019 6:31 pm
      • Commenter Avatar
        Marcus Aurelius Tarkus

        "The irony is lost on the liberal left."

        Not at all, IMO. By passing more laws, legislators intend for their constituents to perceive them as having "done something" about any problem, not just guns. If those laws are not enforced (unually because they are unconstitutional or unenforceable), that's on somebody else. Specifically, Trump. Meanwhile, that fact that their laws were not and/or could not be enforced leaves them an opening to enact even more laws. So goes the merry-go-round.

        Such legislators could not care less about the obvious irony, nor would they act differently if they considered it at all. Meanwhile, the sheeple who keep voting for these wolves can look straight at the situation and see no irony there at all. They see only Trump who is--after all--the cause of all their political and social displeasure. The media told them so.

        August 7, 2019 9:20 am
  • Commenter Avatar
    Duke CCT

    There are frankly very few possible “reasonable” gun control laws if one considers the 2A in fact a Right. NFA, GCA, Hughes Amendment, all CCW laws are frankly unreasonable and as proven time and again, only impact lawful citizens. Nationwide Constitutional Carry is an appropriate response to all of these shootings of unarmed citizens in “gun free zones.” And living outside of Dayton, I can assure that the Oregon District is de facto gun free...I don’t go eat there because there is nowhere I can lawfully carry and dine. If someone has violated a law then incarcerate them and no need for these misnamed red flag laws. Personal responsibility is fundamental to a nation founded on personal liberty, and unlike Dayton rarely are second responders so close by. Ironically, those same guys with guns are the ones who will take you and your guns away with zero substantive due process under these red flag laws. Folks have to pick a side and be serious...it’s either a Right or a privilege. There is no middle ground.

    August 6, 2019 4:26 pm
  • Commenter Avatar

    Don’t get gun ownership confused with patriotism.

    August 6, 2019 3:56 pm
    • Commenter Avatar

      Tp: I agree. You don’t have to own a gun to be a patriot. But to be a patriot you must guarantee the right to freely choose to own a gun.

      August 6, 2019 4:55 pm
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