N.J. has used its new ‘red flag’ law more than once a day since it took effect

Sep 13, 2019

One of New Jersey’s most recent efforts to combat gun violence is off to a busy start.

Judges have approved requests to use the state’s new “red flag” law more than once a day on average since it took effect on Sept. 1. Under the legislation, law enforcement agencies can confiscate the guns of a person who poses a threat to themselves or others after getting judicial approval.

Such laws are becoming more common across the U.S. as states try out new strategies to prevent future mass shootings and reduce overall gun violence, including suicides.

New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the state's "red flag" law helps protect public safety while preserving Second Amendment rights. (Tim Larsen/Office of the Attorney General)

“We are not violating Second Amendment rights,” said New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal at a public training on the new law Thursday. “We are just enabling reasonable measures to promote public safety and to make sure we are keeping firearms out of the hands of individuals who shouldn’t have them.”

As of Thursday, New Jersey judges had approved 14 requests for a so-called Extreme Risk Protective Order, according to data provided by the judiciary. Twelve of the orders were temporary, and two were final orders granted by a judge after the gun owner had had a chance to plead their case in court. 

“That is an extremely high number,” said Alexander Roubian, president of the New Jersey Second Amendment Society, who opposes the law.

Critics like Roubian have argued that it violates the rights of gun owners by forcing them to relinquish their weapons before they have had a chance to be heard by a judge.

“It’s literally modern-day witch hunt, where you can rat out on your neighbor and their property will be taken away,” he added.

The law allows family members or police to make a request to a court that a person’s guns and ammunition be removed because they pose a threat to themselves or public safety.

If a judge grants a temporary risk protective order, the gun owner has to surrender their firearms. Within the following 10 days, both parties will have a chance to make their case at a court hearing, where a judge will decide whether to grant a final risk protective order or release the weapons back to their owner.

The so-called “red flag” law is one of around a dozen gun control measures signed by Gov. Phil Murphy since he took office, which includes a 10-round magazine limit and a ban on “ghost guns.”

The Democrat also announced recently that the state would use its purchasing power to pressure gun manufacturers and retailers as well as banks that do business with the state to adopt or support certain gun safety policies.