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VA judge dismisses ‘red flag’ gun confiscation law challenge after VA AG says it’s constitutional

A handgun and a gun safe. (Tech. Sgt. Thomas Dow/U.S. Air Force)
December 14, 2020

A legal case challenging the constitutionality of “red flag” gun confiscation laws was dismissed Friday after VA Attorney General Mark Herring declared such laws did not violate constitutional rights.

The case, which was filed by a Virginian man in July who claims the new state law was unconstitutional, was dismissed by Judge Glen E. Conrad in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Virginia, WWBT reported.

“Virginians voted overwhelmingly for gun violence prevention last November and the General Assembly delivered by passing proven-effective measures, like this so-called ‘red-flag’ law,” Herring said. “In Virginia, we have already seen how this ‘red flag’ law has been used to save lives by keeping firearms out of the hands of someone who could use it to harm themselves or others.”

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.

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

Between July and September, the gun confiscation law in Virginia led to the seizure of 36 residents’ firearms.

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

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.

“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.”