Skip Navigation

Do Red Flag Laws Save Lives or Reduce Crime?

December 28, 2018
By John R. Lott, Jr., Carlisle E. Moody

More than a dozen states have passed extreme risk protection order laws

Red flag laws had no significant effect on murder, suicide, the number of people killed in mass public shootings, robbery, aggravated assault, or burglary. There is some evidence that rape rates rise. These laws apparently do not save lives.

By the end of 2018, thirteen states have passed Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws which allow police or family members or those living in the same residence to file a petition for a court order temporarily seizing the firearms of persons accused to be a danger to themselves or others (Devos et al., 2018). Using the most recent data, we investigate the effect of Red Flag laws on murder, suicide, and deaths due to multiple victim public shootings. We use murder rather than firearm homicide and suicide rather than firearm suicide because there may be substitution and homicide includes justified homicides and homicides committed in the line of duty by police officers. Four of these states implemented this policy before the end of 2017: California (2016), Connecticut (1999), Indiana (2005), and Washington (2016). We will study these laws being in effect for a combined total of 36 years.