LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer called for policies that reduce gun violence in her State of the State address on Wednesday.
The measures include universal background checks, safe storage of weapons, and extreme risk protection orders which are better known as a “red flag’ laws.
Gun reform groups say the number of deaths and injuries caused by firearms each year would drop if the policies were enacted.
But gun rights advocates view it as an infringement on a person’s constitutional rights.
Whitmer’s proposal for a red flag law will likely face the strongest opposition.
WHAT IS A RED FLAG LAW?
Red flag laws allow law enforcement or a family member to petition a court for an order that temporarily removes someone’s access to guns if a judge believes they would use it to hurt themselves or others.
Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted red flag laws since the 1990s.
Of those, most passed their legislation in 2018 after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
Depending on the state, orders last anywhere from six months to two years.
ARE THEY EFFECTIVE?
Dr. April Zeoli, an associate professorat the University of Michigan, runs the largest study of red flag laws.
She believes their initial findings indicate red flag laws could be an effective measure.
“I think that extreme risk protection orders could reduce gun violence in Michigan,” said Zeoli. “I think everybody can think of a case in this state, where they wish that person didn't have a gun.”
In an interview with FOX 17, Zeoli touted one analysis that looked a 6,700 red flag cases across six states.
It found 10% were petitions for orders in response to a mass shooting threat.
She says there appear to be benefits for situations involving suicide and domestic violence too, but noted a need for more research.
“These are relatively new, extreme risk protection orders,” said Zeoli. “It takes research a little bit of time to catch up for us to understand how effective they are. We need years of data to look at so that we can see if someone who was under it for a year didn't commit firearm violence during that year or didn't die by suicide during that year.”
WOULD THEY BE USED?
While touted as a powerful tool, an analysis last fall by the Associated Press shows red flag laws rarely get used.
The AP found an order was used to remove firearms from people 15,049 times since 2020 which is fewer than 10 per 100,000 adult residents.
Zeoli says there are a few reasons why the numbers are low, but expects it to go up with time.
She noted in most cases law enforcement agencies petition a court for an order.
“There are some counties that have branded themselves Second Amendment sanctuary counties where they said, ‘We're not going to do this,’” said Zeoli. “And there are absolutely places where law enforcement officers are simply not familiar enough. When we're talking about a relatively new policy, it takes people a while to learn about it.”