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Millions of dollars are on the table for Virginia to raise awareness of its red flag law

Assault weapons and hand guns for sale.
Seth Perlman
Assault weapons and hand guns for sale.

Virginia has a red flag law that is supposed to help people alert authorities when someone may be a threat to themselves or others. Federal money is available to help spread awareness about the program in Virginia.

$5 million is on the table to help Virginia spread awareness of its new red flag law, which allows courts to authorize law enforcement officials to temporarily confiscate weapons from people who may be dangerous. Advocates of Virginia's red flag law are eager for the governor to take the money from the Safer Communities Act and help spread the word about how people can take action to prevent gun violence.

Paul Friedman is executive director at the advocacy group Safer Country.

"He's entitled to adjust the funds to do quite a few things," Friedman explains. "There's a lot of flexibility in the law, which is one of the reasons 10 Republicans voted for it in the United States Senate, which overcame the filibuster. There's plenty of opportunity for using these funds in creative ways within the law and many other Republican governors have accepted the funds."

Virginia's red flag law has already been used dozens of times since it was passed into law back in 2020, although some Republicans want to repeal it. Philip Van Cleve at the Virginia Citizens Defense League says he’s glad the governor has not yet taken the money yet.

"I think that's good because a lot of that money has to be earmarked for this red flag stuff," Van Cleve says. "We don't need to be expanding red flag or educating the public about it. We need to be getting rid of it. We need to repeal it."

The governor's office says the director of the Department of Criminal Justice Services, Jackson Miller, is looking at potentially using the money for behavioral health or community-based service providers.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.