Gun laws becoming more strict

Alex Roos, Staffer

After the shooting in South Florida that killed 17 high schoolers, five states – Vermont, Delaware, Florida, Rhode Island, and  Maryland – have passed laws that allow police and other authorities to confiscate guns from people who have shown a pattern of violence.

Even though most proposals to address gun violence are put aside, these “red flag” laws have passed due to the cooperation of both sides of the gun violence debate. The reason for these laws comes from investigations that revealed that the shooters often showed warning signs that they would commit violence.

Nine states have approved these types of laws so far and over a dozen more are considering allowing laws like this to be passed. The first state to approve this law after the shooting in Parkland was in Delaware. Governor John Carney passed the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act on April 30. This law allows mental health professionals to report potentially dangerous people and have their guns seized through a court order.

The bill failed in 2013, but after the shooting in Parkland the law passed the General Assembly unanimously.

“We had meetings where the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence met with members of the local NRA,” state Representative David Bentz said. “We sat in a room and talked about the bill. They seemed sincere in their efforts.”

Delaware lawmakers are expected to pass a second bill similar to most red flag laws, which allow family members and law enforcement officials to petition a court to seize guns from people who exhibit warning signs of harm. In March, the National Rifle Association surprised gun rights advocates and gun-control proponents by expressing support for red flag laws.

“We need to stop dangerous people before they act,” Chris Cox, executive director for the NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, said in a YouTube video. “So, Congress should provide funding for states to adapt risk protection orders.”

Red flag laws note that before a court order can be executed, there must be evidence of a history of violence, or documented threats of committing harm to themselves or others. Red flag laws ask the court to consider a person’s documented history of violence or attempted violence, unlawful use of controlled substances or deadly weapons, and recent purchases of deadly weapons.

Mental health professionals believe red flag laws balance public safety with personal rights by focusing on behavior, not mental health diagnosis.