Skip to content
Solutions

Extreme Risk Laws

Extreme Risk Laws

What is the problem?

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. Extreme Risk laws, sometimes referred to as “Red Flag” laws, allow loved ones or law enforcement to intervene by petitioning a court for an order to temporarily prevent someone in crisis from accessing guns.

These laws can help de-escalate emergency situations. Extreme Risk laws are a proven way to intervene before gun violence—such as a gun suicide or mass shooting—takes more lives.

If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK(8255), or text HOME to 741741 to reach the Crisis Text Line for free from anywhere in the US.

How it Works

Extreme Risk laws can de-escalate emergency situations.

In many instances of gun violence, there are clear warning signs that the shooter posed a serious threat before the shooting. Extreme Risk laws give key community members a way to intervene before warning signs become tragedies. These laws allow immediate family members and law enforcement to petition a court for an order for the temporary removal of guns from dangerous situations. These orders are often known as extreme risk protection orders. If a court finds that a person poses a serious risk of injuring themselves or others with a firearm, that person is temporarily prohibited from having guns.

Under current federal law, a person is barred from having guns only if they fall into one of several categories of prohibited persons. A person who displays warning signs that they’re considering suicide or engaging in a violent act, but who is not prohibited under federal law, would still be legally able to buy and possess guns. Extreme Risk laws help to fill this gap, protecting public safety and allowing people in crisis the chance to obtain the help they need.

The mass shooter in the 2018 Parkland school shooting repeatedly displayed threatening behavior prior to the shooting. He was reported to law enforcement on more than one occasion. Following this tragedy, lawmakers across the country have sought to close this gap in their states. Since the beginning of 2018, 14 states and Washington DC have passed Extreme Risk laws, bringing the total number of states with these laws to 19.

By the numbers

WHICH STATES HAVE EXTREME RISK LAWS?

Currently, 19 states and Washington D.C. have enacted Extreme Risk laws.

Myth & Fact

Myth

Extreme Risk laws violate due process protections guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.

Fact

Extreme Risk laws allow a judge to temporarily remove a person’s access to guns when there is evidence that they pose a serious risk. They also provide due process protections that meet the standards set by the Supreme Court. Judges may enter an emergency short-term order after family or law enforcement gives evidence that the person poses an immediate risk to themselves or others. After notifying the person, the judge must hold a hearing within a short period of time before entering a final order. The person asking for the order must prove that the other person poses a serious risk to themselves or others. That person can challenge any evidence and make their case as to why an order should not be issued. And even orders entered after a full hearing have a limited duration, generally up to one year, and can only be extended if the court holds another hearing. Case law shows that Extreme Risk laws have and will continue to withstand due process challenges: an appeals court in Florida recently upheld Florida’s law in the face of a constitutional due process challenge.

All Resources

Extreme Risk Laws

All Resources