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President Trump has called for gun control with 'red flag laws.' What are they?

Posted at 5:06 PM, Aug 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-08-05 17:06:50-04

Following a weekend that saw two mass shootings claim the lives of more than 30 people, President Donald Trump made his strongest call for tighter gun laws since taking office.

Trump called for the passage of "Red Flag Laws" during an address to the nation on Monday morning.

"We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process," Trump said.

Red flag laws allow local and state law enforcement or a family member to seize guns temporarily from people who a judge decides are a risk to themselves or another. That order from the judge is called an "Extreme Risk Protection Order." During that time, the person is also unable to purchase a gun through a background check.

It's currently unclear if such laws could have prevented the tragedies in El Paso or Dayton. But the laws may have helped prevent the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting and the 2018 Parkland school shooting. In both cases, the guns were legally purchased, and the suspects in the case were known as potential threats to law enforcement. On Monday, Trump himself cited the Parkland shooting as a tragedy that could have been prevented with a red flag law.

But some critics of the laws say they don't go far enough in keeping guns out of the wrong hands. They say the legal process behind it can take too long and orders can lapse too quickly. In some states, the laws have little to no teeth — in Colorado, 34 county sheriffs have said they won't enforce the state's new red flag law because they don't agree with it.

However, the laws do have the backing of the National Rifle Association (NRA) — a rare concession for the group when it comes to gun control. Other Republican lawmakers have also expressed interest in the legislation. In the hours after Trump's address, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-South Carolina), voiced support for such a bill.

Sixteen states currently have red flag laws on the books — California, Connecticut, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island Vermont and Washington. Only five of those states have had the law in effect since before 2018.

Alex Hider is a writer for the E.W. Scripps National Desk. Follow him on Twitter @alexhider.