A Fairfax County “red flag” law is already saving lives, officials say, allowing people to notify police if someone with a gun is a danger to themselves or others so that authorities can remove the weapon with a judge’s permission.
Police and politicians say the law is about preventing a murder before it happens, but that its future is still uncertain.
Under the law, if a gun is seized with a substantial risk order, police hold onto the weapon for a maximum of 180 days. Judges have the ability to extend that if deemed necessary.
Since it went into effect in July, the county has issued 18 substantial risk orders and removed guns from those 18 homes.
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“Eighteen potential lives saved,” Steve Descano, the Fairfax Commonwealth's Attorney, said, “and even in the face of that impact, some in Richmond have expressed a willingness to repeal these red flag laws.”
Angela Yeboah, who works for the county’s domestic and sexual violence services, said there is one clear warning sign that can't be ignored when she works with survivors.
“Women are five times more likely to be murdered by an abusive partner when the partner has access to guns,” she said.
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If you or someone you know has a gun, and you think it could be used to hurt anyone, you can call police and ask for the gun to be seized while the case is investigated and heard in court.
Governor-elect Glenn Youngkin has indicated support for repealing Virginia's red flag law during his campaign. His team declined to comment on it Monday.
Fairfax County Board Chair Jeff McKay hopes Republicans don't try to repeal the law.
“If there is any effort to repeal this law, our board will strongly fight that,” McKay said.
While this red flag law is new to the Commonwealth of Virginia, it's not new in other parts of the country. In fact, one state enacted a similar law back in 1999.
Critics maintain that red flag laws don't give a gun owner due process before their firearm is seized. Courts dispute that, and advocates said their legality has already been upheld.
Those in favor of the law are, however, concerned it could soon be tested at the federal level, and they aren’t confident that the current U.S. Supreme Court would uphold it.