New gun control laws making progress in state legislatures


Lauren Vernon

Fed up with current legislation, FHS students protest in front of the courthouse. During the Wednesday, March 14 protest, students voiced their support of stricter gun laws. New legislation to be proposed in the next state legislative session may help to address the concerns of students and gun control advocates.

Maggie Hendrix and Lexi Sterling

While gun reform and movements against gun violence take place all around the United States right now, New York leads the way by taking a step towards a safer environment. They have adjusted a law that was passed after Sandy Hook in 2012 which originally made sure domestic abusers could not get a hold of and own pistols and revolvers. As of March 31, domestic abusers in New York will now not be able to own any firearms. Convicted abusers will be required to surrender any rifles, shotguns, handguns, and assault rifles that they may own.

State Senators Greg Leding and Will Bond recently announced that they are working to draft a similar red flag gun policy for the state of Arkansas to be introduced in the next legislative session.

The legislation would likely face some opposition in the state legislature, but it is largely supported by conservatives because its power to restrict gun ownership is so limited. According to KARK, Representative Charlie Collins, the gun advocate who led the passage of legislation allowing concealed carry on public university campuses in Arkansas, supports the idea of a red flag law but claims that it should be very limited in order to protect civil rights.

By allowing Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), red flag laws are designed to temporarily remove weapons from individuals who pose a threat to themselves or others.

“The idea is that guns are taken from people who are a threat until they are no longer a threat,” said Nicole Clowney, candidate for the Arkansas House of Representatives. Clowney founded the Northwest Arkansas chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America and spoke briefly to the group about the proposed law Tuesday.

Fortune reported in 2017 that 4.5 million American women reported that a partner had threatened them with a gun, and nearly half of all American women murdered were killed by their partners. The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that, out of all of the American women murdered in 2007, 45 percent of them were killed by an intimate partner. Everytown reports that in a domestic violence situation, a gun being present makes the risk of the woman being killed increase by five times. Everytown also states that, on average, 50 women are killed by a gunshot by their intimate partner each month.

Despite some variation among different states’ laws, they are all designed to maintain public safety by allowing police or acquaintances to inform a judge of a person’s concerning behaviors in order to seek a court order to temporarily limit that person’s access to guns. Soon after an ERPO is enforced on someone, a judge rules on whether or not to maintain this limited access, and the ERPO is lifted if the judge finds that there is no longer a threat.

The governor of New York posted a memo on his website that stated, “the purpose of this bill is to ensure that domestic violence offenders do not have access to firearms.” Of course, the only domestic abusers to whom this applies are those who are convicted. Many victims do not report their abuse. The convicted abusers fall under felony abuse and serious misdemeanors.

ERPOs allow weapons to be temporarily removed from someone’s possession if they exhibit signs of hostility or suicidal actions, and proponents say that this could help to prevent mass shootings. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, documentation existed of shooters’ warning signs of violence prior to at least 42 percent of mass shootings between 2009 and 2016.

The alleged shooter in Parkland, Florida’s recent school shooting, for example, was known to own firearms and had shown numerous signs of behavioral problems, many of which were reported to the authorities prior to the mass shooting.

Additionally, removing firearms from the possession of domestic abusers may help to prevent mass shootings. Statistics show that there is a common link between mass shooters and a history of domestic abuse. According to National Public Radio, 54 percent of the mass shootings that took place between 2009 and 2016 were carried out by someone who had previously been a domestic abuser.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said of the new law, “this legislation builds on our gun laws — already the strongest in the nation — to make New York safer and stronger.” New York has some of the strictest gun laws in the country and some of the lowest death rates that are carried out by guns. New York lawmakers continue to make their state more secure and pave the way for other states to follow.

Six states have put red flag laws in place: California, Connecticut, Florida, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington, and New York’s new law establishes an example for other states to remove firearms from domestic abusers. Arkansas is now among several states working to pass a red flag law, and Florida’s law was passed in March with bipartisan support following the February school shooting in Parkland.

Red flag laws are very limited in their power to retain weapons and are designed primarily to address immediate threats in order to maintain public safety. A temporary order usually lasts two to three weeks and can be put in place prior to a full hearing only with clear evidence that it is necessary to prevent violence. A final order, which is usually in place for under a year, cannot be issued without a full hearing.

“We never want to find ourselves in a situation where we know we could’ve done something to prevent a tragedy,” Senator Leding wrote in an email to constituents, adding “‘Red flag’ laws give people an ability to responsibly intervene at a moment of crisis while respecting an individual’s rights.”

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