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Advocates say Florida's 'red flag' law helps prevent mass shootings, suicides

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Posted at 5:55 PM, Apr 08, 2021

TAMPA, Fla. — In his first major gun control measure since taking office, President Joe Biden announced one of his executive actions will be to have the Justice Department publish model “red flag” legislation to make it easier for states that want to adopt such laws.

"'Red flag' or these emergency protection orders enable law enforcement to be able to intervene in a situation that could become dangerous,” said Clara Reynolds, Crisis Center of Tampa Bay President and CEO.

“Red flag” laws allow family members or law enforcement to petition for a court order to temporarily bar people in crisis from accessing firearms if they present a danger to themselves or others.

The Crisis Center of Tampa Bay said the “red flag” laws can assist them in saving a person’s life.

“When somebody calls and is discussing suicide, we ask if they have a means. 'Do you have a means to die by suicide and if so, what is it?' And for those individuals who identify that there is a gun and they have a gun that is in direct proximity to their person, we immediately notify law enforcement,” Reynolds said.

President Biden said states with “red flag” laws also see a decrease in suicide. According to the most recent data, half of the nation's suicides involved a firearm.

“We certainly know that those percentages are higher in our veteran population. That is a population that we work very closely with here at the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay to prevent those deaths by suicide,” Reynolds said.

Florida enacted the law in 2018 following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. Advocates said the law prevents would-be mass shooters from carrying out violent acts.

“These measures are important not only for those kinds of mass shootings that dominate the headlines almost every week it seems, tragically, but for the 100 people every single day in this country that are killed by gun violence,” said Wendy Malloy, with Florida Moms Demand Action.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia currently have “red flag” laws. The president is urging Congress to pass a national “red flag” law, as well as legislation incentivizing states to pass “red flag” laws of their own.