New Jersey will become the latest state to implement a “red flag” law that allows residents to report family or household members who own a gun and might be a threat to the public or themselves.
More states have been relying on such laws in an attempt to prevent gun deaths by allowing people to tell law enforcement about warning signs of potential violence.
“The idea of temporarily removing guns from people who might be a harm to others or themselves is a really common-sense measure that respects the Second Amendment but can protect people,” said Brett Sabo, New Jersey chapter leader of Moms Demand Action.
But gun rights advocates have said that such laws unfairly target law-abiding gun owners and allow the government to seize their weapons before they have committed a crime.
“This law turns normal due process on its head and says, ‘take the property first and then sometime later, we’ll sort it all out.’ That’s backwards,” said Scott Bach, executive director of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs.
The New Jersey law, which takes effect Sunday, will allow family and household members as well as police to report gun owners who they believe pose an “immediate and present danger of causing bodily injury” to themselves or others.
If a judge rules in their favor and grants a so-called extreme risk protection order, the person must give up their firearms temporarily.
“We’re not dealing just with ordinary property,” Bach said. “We’re dealing with property rights that are protected by the United States Constitution.”
But in supporting the laws, gun control advocates have argued that many mass shooters exhibited behavioral signals that they might become violent before they committed their crimes.
Sabo also suggested that similar laws have been used to prevent people from using guns to kill themselves. According to research by the group Everytown for Gun Safety, gun suicide rates decreased in Connecticut and Indiana after the states implemented “red flag” laws.
New York’s red flag law just took effect this summer, while Delaware has had the law since December 2018. Recently, Pennsylvania lawmakers have pushed for a red flag law in the state.