Press Release

As Red Flag Cases Soar, Senator Gillibrand, Representative Chu Introduce New Legislation To Keep Firearms Out Of The Hands Of Dangerous Individuals

Jun 29, 2023

Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Representative Judy Chu (D-CA-28) are announcing the introduction of their Fair Legal Access Grants (FLAG) Act. All too often, the perpetrators of mass shootings and dangerous crimes have a known past of threatening or even violent rhetoric or behavior, and individuals in suicidal crisis pose a higher risk to themselves if they have easy access to firearms. Law enforcement, community members, and health care professionals can file a red flag petition, known as an extreme risk protection order (ERPO), to help get guns out of the hands of troubled or dangerous individuals. ERPOs are also an effective suicide prevention measure: research shows that most people in a suicidal crisis who don’t have easy access to a firearm or lethal suicide method will not go through with finding other means to kill themselves.

Unfortunately, the burdensome and lengthy legal process may deter people from seeing their petition through, and dangerous or troubled individuals remain armed. The FLAG Act would help keep our communities safe by ensuring that any person filing a red flag petition has access to the legal representation, counsel, and resources needed to be heard and successfully file an ERPO.

“Strengthening red flag laws across the country will help make our communities safer – period. All too often, school administrators, law enforcement officers, and everyday people don’t have the time or support needed to navigate our court system and successfully file a red flag claim when they notice an individual with access to firearms exhibiting troubling or potentially dangerous behavior,” said Senator Gillibrand. My FLAG Act would provide petitioners with legal representation, translation services, and other vital tools needed to see their claim through and help remove guns from those looking to cause harm to themselves or others. So many of us want to perform our civic duty to help keep our communities safe, and this groundbreaking bill will help ensure our voices are heard in the fight to end firearm tragedies.”

 “To keep guns out of the hands of those who are a clear danger to themselves or others and to protect communities across the country, everyone in America needs equal access to gun safety and prevention strategies. I am grateful for the opportunity to partner with Sen. Gillibrand on efforts to strengthen and expand access to ‘red flag’ laws with proven effectiveness at decreasing gun deaths,” said Representative Chu. “The Fair Legal Access Grants, or FLAG Act, would assist family members and other community members in navigating the complicated legal system when seeking to temporarily disarm someone showing signs of violence. By ensuring more communities have buy-in to prevent gun violence, we will help honor the Americans we’ve lost in cities and towns across the country—including my hometown of Monterey Park.”

“Comprehensively addressing the public health crisis of gun violence that is now the leading cause of death for children in America must be a national priority,” Congressman Dan Goldman said. “Keeping guns out of the hands of troubled or dangerous individuals is common sense legislation that we need to tackle the epidemic of gun violence in this country. The FLAG Act will save lives, including those in mental health crises, and protect our children and families.”

“Removing guns from people who pose a risk to themselves or others is a commonsense way to protect our communities,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “In New York, extreme risk protection orders have removed thousands of guns from troubling environments and helped avert tragedies. My office has stepped up to meet the increased demand for ERPOs by representing the State Troopers in these cases, but we need to provide the same support to concerned citizens who are trying to sound the alarm. Senator Gillibrand’s FLAG bill will do just that and will ensure that people can effectively remove guns from dangerous situations and help save lives.”

“Extreme Risk Protection Orders are designed to remove firearms from members of our society that are a threat to themselves or others. Without proper funding many of these cases will undoubtedly fall through the cracks and result in guns being returned to individuals that shouldn’t have them.  Proper legal representation is vital for these cases to be successful in court. The FLAG Act will provide this funding and will ensure that Petitioners in these cases, most commonly police officers, are properly represented in court,” said Timothy M. Dymond, President of the New York State Police Investigators Association.

“Suffolk County is leading New York State in Extreme Risk Protection Orders and our Deputy Sheriffs are working around the clock to enforce them. The expediency needed in these often stressful situations put Deputy Sheriffs in harm’s way while executing these orders. Thank you to Senator Gillibrand for proposing this funding which would assist our operations and staffing to aid our officers in keeping the public safe,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Errol D. Toulon, Jr.

“So many shootings are slow-motion tragedies — a long trail of warning signs leading up to one terrible moment. Extreme risk protection orders are one of the best tools we have to disarm people who are a danger to themselves or others, but a tool is only useful if people know how to use it,” said John Feinblatt, President of Everytown for Gun Safety. “We applaud Sen. Gillibrand for introducing this bill, which will direct additional resources to states to implement extreme risk protection laws and save lives.”

“New York has one of the strongest extreme risk protection order laws in the country because we recognize that individuals in crisis should not have access to guns,” said Frank Teah, Program Director for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence. “We must ensure that ERPO is an accessible tool nationally to reduce gun violence across the country. The national FLAG ACT strengthens ERPO by helping petitioners navigate a complex legal landscape, establishing funding for the implementation of ERPO, and empowering communities by giving them more options to turn to with knowledge and concerns of people who may put themselves or others at risk of violence. We commend Senator Gillibrand for her leadership and for championing this life-saving legislation.”

“The MCCA supports the use of extreme risk protection orders (ERPO) that include strong due process protections. The FLAG Act will assist ERPO petitioners build legal capacity so they can better navigate the legal process, and will directly benefit local law enforcement agencies as eligible petitioners in many states with ERPO laws,” said Laura Cooper, Executive Director, Major Cities Chiefs Association.

“ERPOs, or extreme risk protective orders, while imperfect, give families and law enforcement a civil remedy to disarm people who are a danger to themselves or others,” said Elena Perez, Senior Policy Associate at March For Our Lives. Though protection orders can prevent Americans from experiencing deadly violence, it’s far too difficult to learn about them or file a protection order. The FLAG Act simplifies this by providing grant funding for state and local governments to provide people filing protection orders with legal representation. It’s important for us to continue funding life-saving solutions to end gun violence, and this is a necessary step toward that.”

“Connecticut was the first state to pass the red flag or extreme risk protection orders. A study, published in the June 2018 issue of Psychiatric Services found Connecticut’s gun suicide rate dropped 1.6% in the first few years after our law passed in 1999 but the drop was13.7% – from 2007 until 2015, when Connecticut started utilizing the law more frequently. Newtown Action Alliance urges Congress to urgently pass the Fair Legal Access Grant Act to provide legal resources to the petitioners of Extreme Risk Protection Orders to save lives,” – Po Murray, Chairwoman of Newtown Action Alliance. 

Data shows that providing legal representation for ERPO petitioners leads to a meaningful increase in successful applications. According to data from the New York AG’s office, petitioners with state-funded legal representation had their petitions approved 96% of the time, nearly 15% higher than those without it. Suffolk County has taken the lead in utilizing New York’s strengthened red flag law, issuing over six times more ERPOs than any other county in the state.

The FLAG Act would provide $50 million in annual funding to states and local governments to provide access to legal counsel and other legal services. Eligible recipients include police departments, district attorney offices, community-based legal aid organizations, and more. The bill is endorsed by Everytown, Moms Demand Action, March for Our Lives, Newtown Action Alliance, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Major Cities Chiefs Association, the New York State Police Investigators Association, and the National District Attorneys Association.

The bill text can be found here.