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Prof. Taylor: "red flag" gun laws would survive legal challenges

Red flag law are state laws that would allow courts to take guns away from people who are considered a danger to themselves or others.

WVU Law Professor John Taylor

WVU Law professor John Taylor believes ‘red flag’ gun laws, if challenged in court, would be upheld. Taylor, the Jackson Kelly Professor of Law, calls the proposals being floated in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton “compromise measures.”

Some prominent Republicans are supporting ‘red flag’ laws so that they can be seen as taking some sort of action in response to the tide of mass shootings. 

Providing a legal mechanism to temporarily keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals is more palatable to them than stronger measures like universal background checks and bans on high-capacity magazines and the like. And like any compromise, red flag laws can be attacked from both sides.

Gun control advocates would say such laws are better than nothing, but they do not go nearly far enough because they only work if family members of potential shooters go to the authorities, and the evidence so far suggests that few people will come forward. 

Accordingly, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has blasted such laws as half-measures that are designed to generate the appearance of doing something about gun violence. On the other side, the NRA and its hard-core supporters appear to be opposed to ‘red flag’ laws even though current polling suggests overwhelming political support.

Early red flag laws in Connecticut and Indiana have been upheld in court in the only cases on the issue decided thus far. Under current Supreme Court precedent, most forms of gun regulation are upheld, and I would expect these laws to be upheld if challenged. The need for a judicial order ought to be enough to address due process concerns if the laws are drafted with any care.

— John Taylor


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