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How A 'Red Flag Law' Works — In A Red State

The recent spate of mass shootings, capped by the weekend tragedies in El Paso and Dayton, are bringing  new attention to so-called "red flag" laws.

These laws allow police to temporarily seize weapons from someone deemed dangerous. They've been enacted in 15 states — even red ones like Indiana, which hosted the 2019 NRA convention. Indiana's law passed in 2005 and is one of the oldest in the nation, but it hasn't been used a lot.

Side Effects' Isaiah Seibert recently examined the case of an Indiana man whose guns were seized after he  made a threatening 911 call. It shows how the laws can attract support across the political spectrum.

Kent Leslie, who has taught classes on mental health issues to law enforcement, said the laws can help prevent suicide. "When somebody’s at risk of dying by suicide, if we have some distance and time from the lethal means, it does save lives."

Avowed Second Amendment supporter Sam Preston, who worked for the Vanderburgh County Sheriff’s Office for 30 years, also saw value in the laws. He said they strike a good balance.

He said Americans don't want to live in a country where people can have their weapons seized. He added, "We also do have to protect the public, and just because someone at a moment in time may not be healthy enough for them to have a weapon, doesn't mean that down the road that they won't be able to."

Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. Wendy McNamara called the law "common sense."

“We don't want dangerous individuals having access to guns, and if they do, we want to make sure that we find help for these individuals and that their weapons are taken away from them."

This story was produced by, a news collaborative covering public health.

Copyright 2021 Side Effects Public Media. To see more, visit .

Dave Rosenthal is Managing Editor of Great Lakes Today, a collaboration of public media stations that is led by WBFO, ideastream in Cleveland in WXXI in Rochester, and includes other stations in the region.
Dave Rosenthal
Dave is the former Senior Director of News & Public Affairs at WBFO/WNED in Buffalo and previously was Managing Editor of Great Lakes Today, a public radio collaboration. Before moving to public broadcasting, he was The Baltimore Sun's investigations editor, and led projects that won honors including the Clark Mollenhoff Award for Excellence in Investigative Reporting, Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism's Paul Tobenkin Memorial Award and the Investigative Reporters & Editors’ breaking news award. Dave has degrees from Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Law. In his free time, he can be found biking on roads and trails.