Will NJ’s new ‘red flag’ law prevent shooting deaths?

Leah Mishkin, NJTV News | September 10, 2019 | More Issues
Law allows gun rights to be removed from people deemed a risk to themselves or others; not everyone is happy with it

On Sept. 1, New Jersey joined 16 other states and the District of Columbia in putting an Extreme Risk Protective Order Act, otherwise known as a “red flag” law, in place.

Under the new law, a person who is deemed a risk to themselves or others by “having custody or control of, owning, possessing, purchasing or receiving a firearm” can have those gun rights taken away.

The process begins when family, household members or law enforcement officials flag an individual. A petition then goes before a judge, and if a temporary extreme risk protective order is granted, the person who is flagged must surrender any firearms and firearm paraphernalia.

According to the state judiciary, multiple petitions were filed within the first few days of the red flag law going into effect.

Within 10 days, the petitioner presents evidence at a hearing, and the respondent can fight the case. A judge then decides whether to grant a final extreme risk protective order that, unlike in other states, is an order without a definitive expiration date.

But the effectiveness and legality of the law have been called into question.

Claims that the law ignores due process

New Jersey Second Amendment Society president Alexander Roubian claims the law is unfairly taking away the respondent’s rights and ignoring due process, since the court will not provide the flagged person with an attorney.

Forensic psychologist Gianni Pirelli is concerned that the law misses a crucial step by not including a mandatory mental health evaluation.

“The person is now still functioning in society. And so my question is, are we concerned about taking away the guns, or are we concerned about reducing the person’s risk?” said Pirelli.

Veronica Allende, director of the Division of Criminal Justice within the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office, says the law provides recourse for law enforcement in the state that they didn’t have before, which could prevent future tragedies.

“Now [law enforcement] can file their own petition. They can follow up. And now they have something that’s going to actually go to court on an expedited basis, and so we’ll know pretty quickly after receiving that information and be able to act on it pretty quickly. So we would hope that we would avert some of that activity as well,” said Allende.