What is a red flag law? Does Alabama have one?

WBRC Red Flag laws
Published: Jun. 13, 2022 at 10:52 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - There is currently no red flag law in Alabama. You’ll find them in 19 states and the District of Columbia. The idea behind it is to prevent people who show signs of being a danger to others or themselves from having access to guns.

Red flag laws give family members or law enforcement the right to legally remove guns temporarily through the court system from a person who may be a danger to others or themselves. We’re told most red flag petitions are filed by law enforcement.

“They’re asking for a temporary order removing any weapon from that person based on certain criteria that each state has enacted such as threats of violence or violent behavior,” Roger Appell, a local attorney said.

The timing of how long a firearm is taken away from someone depends on the situation according to Appell. The orders can usually be extended through another court hearing.

In Alabama, domestic abusers can’t have guns as well as those convicted of violent crimes.

“If you’ve been convicted of any felony under federal law, you’re not entitled to possess a weapon,” Appell said.

U.S. Senators are working on a plan which includes money to incentivize states to have red flag laws. Birmingham State Representative Merika Coleman plans to once again file a red flag bill, but it’s failed every time she has introduced it. After recent mass shootings, Coleman is optimistic the bill will pass.

“Sometimes it’s timing. Unfortunately, we just all witnessed the travesty that happened in both Buffalo and in Texas,” Coleman said.

Red flag laws aren’t exclusively about people who have a mental illness. Dr. Garen Wintemute, a violence prevention expert at the University of California says “people with mental health issues typically tend to be victims of violence more than they are those who carry out violence.”

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