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Researchers study ‘red flag’ gun laws in CT and IN, find reduction in firearm suicides

INDIANAPOLIS – A researcher at the University of Indiana says a new study provides evidence that risk-based gun seizure laws are saving lives. Risk-based firearm seizure laws – also known as “red flag”, “risk warrant”, or “extreme risk protection order” laws – provide ways for law enforcement to seize guns from people considered to pose an imminent risk to themselves or others.

The study utilizes CDC data from the 50 states over a 34-year period, but focuses on Connecticut and Indiana. Connecticut was the first state to enact a risk warrant law, in 1999.  Indiana was the second state, enacting its law in 2005. Researchers compared the number of firearm-related suicides before and after the risk-based firearm seizure laws were enacted. Nearly 23,000 Americans died in suicide incidents involving a firearm in 2016, the most recent data available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The study, “Effects of Risk-Based Firearm Seizure Laws in Connecticut and Indiana on Suicide Rates, 1981-2015,” was published Friday in the journal Psychiatric Services, and found a 7.5-percent decrease in firearm suicides in Indiana in the 10 years following enactment of the law relative to expected rates, an effect larger than that seen in any comparison state by chance alone.

Enactment of Connecticut’s law was associated with a 1.6-percent reduction in firearm suicides immediately after its passage relative to expected rates, and a 13.7-percent reduction in the post-Virginia Tech period when there was a substantial increase in enforcement.

With more than 20 “red flag” gun bills pending in state legislatures across the country, the study author said risk-based gun seizure laws have emerged as a prominent policy option for reducing gun violence. In the wake of the Parkland mass shooting, Florida recently became the sixth state in the country to pass a “red flag” gun law, joining California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington.

“Policy makers working to reduce gun violence benefit from data in helping them weigh the balance between individual risks and rights,” study author Aaron Kivisto said. “Red flag” laws, which may vary from state to state, share several important commonalities, particularly in providing a way of removing guns from individuals who are considered dangerous and already own guns, according to Kivisto.

“All states include judicial oversight of all gun seizures made by law enforcement and provide due process protections,” Kivisto explained. “These laws aren’t designed to permanently prohibit individuals from owning guns, but rather to remove them, often for several months, until the individual is no longer in crisis and posing a risk to themselves or others,” he added.

-from a Univ. of Indiana press release