Do red flag laws work? Report doesn't answer that question

Do red flag laws work? Report doesn't answer that question
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Red flag laws are incredibly controversial. However, a large number of Americans like the idea. It’s entirely possible that they’re envisioning these laws being applied just perfectly and aren’t considering any of the constitutional questions surrounding them, but they do just the same.


But a big question is, do they work?

That’s the question asked in the headline of a CBS News story on them.

“What are red flag laws — and do they work in preventing gun violence?” asks the headline.

Extreme risk protection orders, more commonly referred to as “red flag” laws, have been passed across the country as a means to prevent gun violence — but there are many questions about what these laws involve and how well they work.

Until 2018, just five states had adopted red flag laws. The number of states implementing such laws surged after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

The nonprofit group Everytown for Gun Safety has been a big advocate for these laws. They’re vital to preventing gun violence, said Chelsea Parsons, Everytown’s director of implementation.

“They provide a proactive opportunity to prevent tragedies,” she said. “You don’t have to wait for somebody to commit a crime when there are clear warning signs that this person having access to firearms poses a clear risk.”

Here’s what to know about red flag laws and their impact on gun violence.


Pretty straightforward, even if it seems to focus a bit too much on Everytown here at the start, but that’s not overly surprising.

What follows from here is a surprisingly detailed report about red flag laws that never actually answers the question of whether they work or not.

It does highlight some failures, such as the Club Q shooting, but at the heart of things, there’s no real attempt to show that yes, these laws do work or no, they don’t.


Well, the easy answer is that there’s absolutely no evidence one way or another.

In the wake of a red flag law’s passage, the media gets filled with reports of X number of red flag orders being filed, the implication is that yes, the law is working as designed.

The problem is that we don’t really know that to be the case.

How many red flag laws are filed against people who may have said troubling things but weren’t likely to act on those troubling things? How many were filed maliciously? How many were for suicidal ideations and then the person attempted to take their own life in another way?


There are so many questions that aren’t being answered with a simple, “We issued X number of red flag orders last month.”

So far, there’s been little effort to look at any actual impact of gun violence. There’s no desire to see if red flag laws actually work or not.

It’s hard not to look at this and figure it’s because they don’t care if it works. It’s a way to deprive some people of a firearm, and that’s the big takeaway here.

But CBS News never really answers their own question, which is fine. What bothers me is that they don’t seem all that bothered by it.

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