RI police chiefs urging legislators to pass 'red flag' law

Under the "red flag" law, police could obtain a court order preventing people from having guns if they are a danger to themselves or others

By Paul Edward Parker
The Providence Journal, R.I.

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association on Tuesday voted unanimously to ask the General Assembly to pass a law to help keep guns out of the hands of people who demonstrate they are a risk to public safety.

Later in the day, a senior aide to Governor Raimondo said she is likely to sign an executive order early next week to immediately establish such a "red flag" policy in the state.

Her executive order would not preclude legislative action. In fact, Raimondo will encourage legislative action, the aide said. But she views an executive order as "step to ensure we can take immediate action to keep Rhode Islanders' safe."

Under a so-called "red flag" law, the police could obtain a court order preventing people from having guns if they are a danger to themselves or others.

The law would establish a process similar to the one that allows courts to take away the guns of people in domestic violence cases.

A judge would assess whether a person poses an imminent danger. If the person does, a judge could issue a temporary restraining order requiring the person to surrender any firearms already owned and barring the person from buying new guns. Within 21 days, the judge would be required to hold a hearing on whether to make the order "permanent." A permanent order would last for one year, with a mandatory hearing at the end of that period to decide whether the order should be ended or extended.

Possessing a gun while under such an order, or providing a gun to someone who is under such an order, would be a felony.

In a news release, the chiefs association said that Connecticut passed a red flag law in 1999, resulting in a lower rate of suicide by firearms.

"While we respect the Second Amendment, we must also balance the interest of public safety and need such legislation to protect our citizens," the chiefs association said. "We realize that there is no one solution to this epidemic of mass shootings in our country, and there is no one law that can prevent all shootings. But, we have examples right here in Rhode Island, where this law on many occasions would have helped in our mission."

©2018 The Providence Journal (Providence, R.I.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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