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Examples of How Extreme Risk Laws Save Lives

Appendix A

4.17.2020

Last Updated: 7.7.2021

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Introduction

The following examples illustrate the use of Extreme Risk laws—sometimes referred to as “red flag” laws—to temporarily remove firearms from dangerous situations. When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. These laws are designed to be a tool to defuse dangerous situations while also providing due process and a system of checks and balances.

Everytown compiled these cases from media reports and publicly available databases. The examples are presented by intent and by year, when known. While they do not cover every case in which a judge granted an order under an Extreme Risk law, these instances provide important examples of the vital role Extreme Risk laws can play in preventing people in crisis from accessing firearms.

Danger Of Harming Others

2018 | BROWARD COUNTY, FL

Courthouse employees notified law enforcement after a Broward County bailiff simulated shooting people from the fifth-floor atrium and called them “easy prey.” Following a hearing, a judge ordered 67 firearms, including an AR-15, to be removed from the bailiff’s home for a one-year period.1Jessica Lipscomb, “Florida’s Post-Parkland ‘Red Flag’ Law Has Taken Guns from Dozens of Dangerous People,” Miami New Times, August 7, 2018, https://bit.ly/2ORW56U.

2018 | SAN DIEGO, CA

A 79-year-old man allegedly shot a city worker and was placed in custody. Police were concerned about the man having access to firearms if he were to be released on bail, and they requested and received an order. Police removed an AR-15 with a 200-round drum magazine, 34 other rifles, and 21 handguns from his home.2City News Service, “Man Who Shot City Worker Had a Cache of Guns, Explosives, Prosecutors Say,” Fox 5 News, September 14, 2018, https://bit.ly/349rIkl; San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott, “Man Who Shot City Worker Had Weapons Stockpile,” September 14, 2018, http://bit.ly/2kgb9Bb.

2018 | MONROE, WA

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office obtained an order against a 20-year-old man. who claimed to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), posted on social media about killing Jews in a synagogue and kids in a school. In one post, he reportedly wrote that he was “shooting for 30 Jews,” and in another post he wrote about replicating the actions of the white supremacist who shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Sheriffs removed 12 guns from his home.3Caleb Hutton, “Monroe Man Gets 1 Year in Jail for Threats to Massacre Jews,” HeraldNet (Everett, Washington), June 5, 2019, https://bit.ly/2ZsXz0z; Caleb Hutton, “Monroe Man Charged in Killing Plot: ‘I’m Shooting for 30 Jews,’” HeraldNet (Everett, Washington), April 8, 2019, http://bit.ly/2lBYXus.

c. 2016-2018 | CALIFORNIA

The California Department of Justice was warned about a 21-year-old man who threatened to shoot his coworkers after he was fired. It was discovered that he had recently purchased a shotgun, but due to California’s 10-day waiting period, the sale had not yet been completed. A temporary order was granted that ultimately blocked the sale, and police found 400 rounds of shotgun ammunition in his home. After a hearing that man participated in, a judge determined a final one-year order should be issued.4Wintemute et al., “Extreme Risk Protection Orders Intended to Prevent Mass Shootings.”

2019 | MERCER COUNTY, NJ

Police received an anonymous tip expressing concerns about a 27-year-old man who had made multiple alarming posts on Facebook, including one threatening to attack a local Walmart. Police and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office obtained an order, and police removed seven guns and numerous rounds of ammunition from two separate apartments.5Joe Brandt, “Princeton Man Posted aAbout Bringing His AR-15 Rifle to Walmart, So Cops Seized All His Guns,” NJ.com, November 11, 2019, https://bit.ly/36X6PK6.

2020 | DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO

A judge granted an order against a man in his sixties who had a history of concerning behavior. The man had repeatedly called police to his home claiming to have been shot or that hitmen were in his bedroom. He often dressed in law enforcement gear and questioned neighbors. He had also bragged about shooting someone and sent his ex-wife threatening text messages. After obtaining the order, sheriffs removed 59 guns and 50,000 rounds of ammunition from his possession.6Elise Schmelzer and Shelley Bradley, “Colorado’s Red Flag Law Iis One Year Old. Here’s Who’s Using the Law to Confiscate Guns — and Why,” Denver Post, January 10, 2021, https://dpo.st/3vs60Vr; Christopher Osher and Evan Wyloge, “Colorado ‘Red Flag’ Law Shows Some Success, but Inconsistent Use,” Colorado Springs Gazette, March 28, 2021, https://bit.ly/3z0LgGU.

Danger Of Gunfire In Schools

2018 | ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FL

A high school student was stalking his ex-girlfriend after she broke up with him. At one point he attempted to punch a boy who was with her. The student also threatened to post private photos of the girl on social media, threatened suicide if she didn’t get back together with him, and posted photos of an AR-15 online. Two resource officers submitted affidavits for a petition against him, and all the firearms were removed from his home.7Emma Kennedy, “Tate Student’s AR-15, Father’s 54 Guns Removed under New Red Flag Law,” Pensacola News Journal, July 9, 2018, https://bit.ly/2UHmaba.

2018 | MIDDLEBURY, VT

Two students at Middlebury Union Middle School were planning to shoot another student on campus and “anyone else.” Another student overheard this conversation and notified the school principal, who then called the police. One of the students was planning to get the guns from a relative. Prosecutors obtained an emergency 14-day order and removed 10 weapons from the relative’s home to which the student said he had access to.8Lucia I. Suarez Sang, “Attentive Student Foiled Possible School Shooting, Vermont Police Say,” Fox News, December 19, 2018, https://fxn.ws/2Fs65Bd; Spencer Conlin, “Middlebury Police Chief Defends Weapons
Seizure Over Alleged Shooting Plot,” myChamplainValley.com, December 19, 2018, https://bit.ly/2RJPPBX.

2018 | PORTLAND, OR

A judge granted a petition for a man who posed for photos with a semi-automatic rifle and had spoken openly about planning a school shooting.9Friedman, “Shots Not Fired.”

c. 2016-2018 | CALIFORNIA

A 21-year-old man posted statements online threatening his former high school. Two different acquaintances reported these posts to police, with one person reporting a post that appeared to show the man holding an AR-type rifle. The school was closed the following day. A temporary ex parte order was obtained, and a full order was issued after a hearing.10Wintemute et al., “Extreme Risk Protection Orders.”

2020 | LARIMER COUNTY, CO

A judge granted an emergency order against a 32-year-old man after he sent texts threatening to commit two school shootings to his adoptive father. The man, a military veteran, conveyed in the text messages that he had trouble finding work and that if his adoptive parents did not stop demanding repayment of money he owed them, he would “kill a lot of people.” Although police found no firearms in his home when they executed the order, the man had communicated plans to buy two firearms. After a hearing at which he appeared with counsel, a judge issued a final order prohibiting him from purchasing or possessing firearms.11Sady Swanson, “Red Flag Petition Granted for Larimer County Man Accused of Threatening Mass Shooting,” Fort Collins Coloradoan, May 28, 2020, https://bit.ly/2S0LWuL.

Domestic Violence

2018 | SUNRISE, FL

A 47-year-old man admitted his plans to kill his estranged wife, her sister, and his pastor to his church congregation. After a hearing, a judge granted an order requiring the removal of the man’s handgun and relinquishment of his concealed-weapons license.12Lipscomb, “Florida’s Post-Parkland ‘Red Flag’ Law.”

2018 | MID-CITY, CA

A 33-year-old man locked his wife in a car with him and began to threaten her with a loaded firearm. Police found two loaded firearms that did not belong to him in the car. Law enforcement obtained an order and removed the two handguns from his possession.13Dana Littlefield, “10 San Diego Residents Under Court Orders to Give up Their Guns,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 16,2018, https://bit.ly/2VZfENw.

2018 | LA JOLLA, CA

Law enforcement obtained an order against a 40-year-old man who texted his fiancée saying he wanted to shoot her in the head and threatened her ex-boyfriend while armed with a knife. Law enforcement removed a handgun and an assault-style rifle from his possession. 14Littlefield, “10 San Diego Residents Under Court Orders.”

2018 | BROOKINGS, OR

The day after learning his wife was leaving him, a 35-year-old man went out and purchased a handgun. After returning home with the gun and consuming alcohol, he began arguing with his wife. As the argument escalated, he took out the gun. His wife made a phone call to another man, letting him know her husband would not let her leave. Her husband then, threatened to kill the other man. Police arrived minutes later and the man relinquished his handgun. The next morning, a judge issued an order preventing the man from purchasing or possessing firearms for one year.15Friedman, “Shots Not Fired.”

2020 | DENVER, CO

At the end of 2019, a 26-year-old man voluntarily turned over his firearms to Denver police during a domestic violence investigation. The man was suspected of beating his wife and had made suicidal statements on numerous occasions when talking with police. One day after Colorado’s Extreme Risk law took effect in 2020, a judge granted an order allowing police to temporarily keep the man’s guns as the investigation continued.16Marshall Zelinger, “First Known Case Using Colorado’s New Red Flag Law Filed in Denver,” KUSA TV, January 3, 2020, https://bit.ly/38S4ws7.

2020 | RIFLE, CO

A 36-year-old police officer with a history of domestic violence became upset after learning a fellow officer was moving to another agency. After drinking heavily and arguing with his ex-wife, he grabbed a handgun and threatened suicide if his ex-wife tried to leave the house. He also threatened suicide if his ex-wife or their children called the police. The following day, police obtained an emergency order requiring him to surrender all of his firearms.17Stephanie Butzer, “Red Flag Petition Approved After Rifle Man Allegedly Threatened to Kill Himself, Ex-wife, Children,” Denver 7, May 1, 2020, https://bit.ly/3vub6Rc.

Danger Of Self-harm

2018 | ROSEVILLE, CA

An individual called police about a relative who was threatening suicide with a gun in his home. After trying for hours to get the man to come out with no success, police obtained an order and the man relinquished his firearms.18Koseff, “‘Best Tool’ to Prevent Gun Violence.”

2019 | NEW LEBANON, NY

Police arrested a 51-year-old man for illegally possessing a firearm and for shooting a car. Following his arraignment, the man made statements regarding self-harm, prompting authorities to obtain an emergency order. Police removed a handgun and seven long guns from the man’s possession. The man waived his right to the final hearing, agreeing to comply with a judge’s order requiring the removal of his firearms for one year.19Bob Fredericks, “Man Becomes First to Lose Guns under New York’s ‘Red Flag’ Law,” New York Post, September 13, 2019, https://bit.ly/37NqPPS.

2019 | CRANSTON, RI

Two days before Christmas, a concerned individual contacted police regarding a text message they had received, which contained an image of a man holding a firearm in a position that was threatening suicide. Police officers subsequently went to the man’s house, where he told the officers he had a firearm in the home and was intending to die by suicide. Police then obtained an order to temporarily remove the man’s firearm.20Katherine Gregg and Brian Amaral, “Police: RI‘s Red Flag Law ‘Likely Averted Potential Tragedies,’” Providence Journal, December 30, 2019, https://bit.ly/2RF2gyE.

2020 | MONTCLAIR, VA

A 33-year-old man entered another person’s home and was unable to tell police what he was doing there. Police learned from his wife that he was experiencing mental health challenges and had been exhibiting “paranoid and delusional” behavior. Police obtained an emergency order and removed six firearms, including an assault-style rifle.21Daniel Berti, “More Than 20 Guns Removed From Prince William, Manassas Residents So Far Via ‘Red Flag’ Law,” Prince William Times, February 25, 2021, https://bit.ly/32YwlOu.  

2020 | Virginia Beach, VA

Police obtained an order after a man threatened to shoot himself in his ex-girlfriend’s driveway, following their break up. Police retrieved a loaded gun from his car.22Graham Moomaw, “Pro-gun Localities Accounted for Nearly Half of Virginia’s Red Flag Orders in Law’s First Months,” Virginia Mercury, October 6, 2020, https://bit.ly/3gS6iB3.  

2020 | BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, IN

A woman contacted the sheriff’s office after her husband made repeated comments about harming himself or using a firearm to provoke others to harm him. After investigating, law enforcement used the law to remove 20 firearms from the home.23“20 Guns Confiscated fFrom Bartholomew County Man uUnder Indiana’s Red Flag Law,” WTTV, July 13, 2020, https://bit.ly/3gLEvSt. 

Read Appendix B: Extreme Risk Laws By State

Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

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