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Red flag gun laws: What are they?

Several conversations surrounding red flag laws have sparked after recent mass shootings across the country. But what do they entail?

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The bipartisan framework on gun safety legislation includes talk of red flag laws. We hear them talked about often – but what are they?

On Sunday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators announced the framework for a gun reform bill.

Ellen Weintraut of Moms Demand Action said that the framework would be a monumental move. She said Moms Demand Action has been working on gun reform for nearly ten years. 

“It’s been decades since there’s been any movement on laws to protect us from firearms," said Weintraut. "So this is huge no matter what happens. The fact that a bipartisan group of senators came together and that they’re actually discussing it.” 

One of the proposals in the bill's framework is red flag laws. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia already have some form of red flag law, but the list doesn't include Arkansas.

Weintraut explained that a red flag law, otherwise known as an Extreme Risk Protection Order, allows for police or a family member to ask a judge for the temporary removal of weapons from someone who presents a danger to themselves or others.

Penalties would be toughened for so-called straw purchasers, or those buying guns for others who don't qualify. More current or former romantic partners convicted of domestic abuse, or targeted with restraining orders by their victims, would be barred from getting guns. The ban applies today if the couple was married, lived together or had children together.

Inclusion of the tougher restrictions against straw purchasers and estranged partners were surprises because they’d been blocked by Republicans before.

There are some concerns with the law. In Colorado, multiple cities and counties have vowed not to enforce their state's red flag law.  

The ACLU also had some concerns writing that any law must have "clear, nondiscriminatory criteria for defining persons as dangerous."

Weintraut said that in many cases, the responsibility lies on the judge.

“The judge will make that determination and obviously will go through the fact-finding and determine if it is an appropriate situation or not," said Weintraut. "It’s not just some random person going out and taking your gun from you.”

Weintraut said that the impact of red flag laws are heavily dependent on the writing of the bipartisan gun reform bill. She explained that if it passed in the Senate, it may likely pass the House. President Biden has already indicated that he would sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

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