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36 Virginia residents’ firearms seized under ‘red flag’ law

Gun rights protestors gather under the Virginia State Capitol for a rally in support of Second Amendment rights on January 20, 2020, in Richmond, Va. (Rob Ostermaier/Virginian Pilot/TNS)
September 28, 2020

A new “red flag” gun confiscation law in Virginia has led to the seizure of 36 resident’s firearms since the law went into effect on July 1.

After being passed by Virginia’s Democrat-controlled General Assembly in a partisan decision, Virginia judges have issued 26 temporary and 10 permanent substantial risk orders across the state in July and August, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

The red flag law prohibits residents from purchasing or owning a firearm if a judge decides the resident would be a danger to himself or others. It also allows police to confiscate a person’s already legally-owned firearms if such a court order is made.

A resident can contest the ruling in court, but a judge can extend the suspension for 180-day intervals indefinitely.

According to The Winchester Star, one of the cases involved a man in Frederick County whose firearms were seized under a temporary substantial risk order. The firearms were returned despite a prosecutor’s attempt to extend the order permanently. Earlier this month, the man testified in court that his family lied to obtain the order against him, and lied to police about pulling a pistol on his son.

“The red flag law is wrong because anybody who is spiteful can have someone’s guns taken from them,” the man told the presiding judge. Two semi-automatic rifles, a hunting rifle, and three pistols were subsequently returned to him.

The judge saw no “clear and convincing evidence” that the man was a substantial risk of personal injury to himself or others, as the law requires. The judge also noted that no witnesses showed up to testify in court “that say a gun was pointed at them.”

Widely supported by Democrats and opposed by Republican lawmakers in the state, the purpose of the “red flag” law is to reduce gun killings and suicides. Police must petition a judge to issue a 14-day order and conduct an investigation before submitting an affidavit outlining their case. If the order is granted, a resident’s firearms can be seized and the purchase of new firearms prohibited for the duration of the order. The law requires a hearing no more than 14 days after the seizure to allow the resident to have the order ended.

“Thus far, our office has found the ‘Red Flag Laws’ to be beneficial in cases where there is an indication of mental health issues on the part of the defendant and concerns by our office and the Police Department with regard to safety to the community,” Colonial Heights Commonwealth’s Attorney Gray Collins reportedly said in an email.

Multiple pro-Second Amendment groups like the Virginia Citizens Defense League and the Firearms Policy Coalition believe the law is unconstitutional.

“There is no sufficient evidence showing that these laws have any effect on crime prevention…red flag laws are also inherently discriminatory because of the disproportionate burden on the poor; respondents are often buried in legal costs while attempting to recover property which is rightfully theirs to begin with,” the Firearms Policy Coalition said in a statement on their website. “And perhaps the most ironic is that the legislation itself stigmatizes mental illness, discouraging individuals from receiving help for fear of being denied their constitutionally protected rights.”