The Justice Department is sending out more than $200 million to help states and the District of Columbia administer “red-flag laws” and other crisis-intervention programs as part of the landmark bipartisan gun legislation passed by Congress over the summer, officials said Tuesday.
Red-flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, are intended to temporarily remove guns from people with potentially violent behavior and prevent them from hurting themselves or others. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have red-flag laws.
Some of the $231 million in funding announced Tuesday, the fifth anniversary of the deadly school shooting in Parkland, Florida, will also go to crisis-intervention court proceedings and other gun-violence reduction programs.
Red-flag laws have been touted by President Joe Biden and others as a powerful tool to stop gun violence before it happens. But an Associated Press analysis found they are often underused even as shootings and gun deaths soar around the U.S. That can be due to a lack of awareness or reluctance to enforce the laws.
The suspect in a mass shooting targeting an LGBT nightclub in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in November, for example, had allegedly threatened his mother with a homemade bomb a year and a half earlier, but there’s no public record that police or relatives tried to trigger Colorado’s law.
The laws differ by state, but they generally allow people like family members or law enforcement to petition a court for an order removing weapons, for up to a year. Some critics fear they could be used to wrongly curtail Second Amendment rights. The Justice Department said the program has checks in place to ensure due process.
The funding is part of the $1.4 billion from the legislation provided to the Justice Department over five years for gun violence prevention measures.
The legislation passed in June was the widest-ranging gun violence bill in decades. It toughened requirements for young people who seek to buy guns, denied firearms for more domestic abusers, and bolstered funding for mental health programs and schools.
Attorney General Merrick Garland said the funding will “help protect children, families, and communities across the country from senseless acts of gun violence.”