On May 19, Minnesota became the 20th U.S. state to approve a law that allows law enforcement to remove guns from people deemed a risk to themselves or others. Governor Tim Walz signed the legislation as part of a broader gun reform package that also includes universal background checks.
The new red flag law, which goes into effect on January 1, 2024, comes as part of back-to-back wins for gun reform advocates in the Midwest. Michigan’s Legislature also recently passed similar legislation, which Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law on May 22.
Red flag laws like Minnesota’s enable law enforcement — and sometimes family members and other concerned parties like health care providers or roommates— to petition a judge for an order to temporarily seize guns from people. The petitioners must submit evidence that they pose a threat to themselves or others. Depending on the state, they’re known as Extreme Risk Orders (EROs), Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), or Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs).
In 1999, Connecticut became the first state to enact such a law, though it wasn’t known as a red flag law at the time. Few states followed until the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since then, 17 states have enacted new red flag laws or strengthened their existing ones.
The States That Have Passed Red Flag Laws
These laws enable law enforcement, and sometimes other concerned parties, to petition courts to seize firearms from someone who poses a risk to themself or others.
There is no federal red flag law, though several have been proposed, and at least one previously passed the U.S. House of Representatives. The 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provided some $750 million in funding for state efforts to implement red flag laws, along with other crisis interventions. Despite that investment and the Biden administration’s attempts to provide model legislation, Michigan and Minnesota are the first states to pass new red flag laws since the Safer Communities Act went into effect. Most states still lack the legislation.