Red Flag Law Likely On Its Way to the Governor's Desk

Feb 24, 2020

Lawmakers are moving forward on a bill that will let authorities confiscate guns from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Gun-rights enthusiasts may have lost the election last fall, leading to a new Democratic majorities in the House and Senate. But they have not given up. This year, they’re packing committee hearings wearing orange stickers proclaiming “guns save lives” and applauding Republican Senator Richard Stuart of the Northern Neck.

Delegate Rip Sullivan of Arlington explains his red-flag law to the Senate Judiciary Committee as gun rights enthusiasts wearing orange stickers pack the committee room.

During a recent hearing, Stuart was critical of the idea that a red flag law might keep guns out of the hands of people who are a danger to themselves or others.

“What purpose does it serve to serve an order on him telling him to turn over his firearms," Stuart asked. "Couldn’t he create havoc with a myriad of other things, and if this person is mentally disturbed shouldn’t we deal with that first?”

Now, Republicans tried to amend the bill so that it was restricted to people who might do harm to themselves, not others. That idea was rejected by Senator Creigh Deeds, a Democrat from western Virginia. 

“The research has shown that people who intend to kill themselves with a firearm are hindered when the firearm is removed and suicide is much less likely to occur," said Deeds. "In the states where this legislation has passed that’s what the studies show.”

The House and Senate have now modified the proposal so that authorities now need to get a warrant in addition to a protective order, adding an additional trip to the courthouse to protect civil liberties. The bill is one of eight gun-control measures suggested by the governor. All of them are moving toward the governor’s desk except one, an ill-fated assault weapons ban no longer on the table for this year.

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