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Delaware's red flag laws being used to remove guns from people in crisis

Sarah Mueller
Delaware Public Media
The signing of the Beau Biden Gun Violence Prevention Act in April 2018.

While President Donald Trump calls for a national red flag law, data shows similar laws in Delaware are being used to remove weapons from those who may be in crisis.

Gov. John Carney signed the two red flag bills last year. One lets mental health providers report gun owners who are a danger to themselves or others to law enforcement so the Justice of the Peace Court can temporarily remove their weapons. The other allows family members or law enforcement to get a lethal violence protection order against the person.

Data from the Delaware Criminal Justice Information System shows 36 petitions have been filed with the JP Courts since the laws took effect late last year.

State Rep. David Bentz said it’s good that these interventions are now available to assist people in a crisis.

“We have provided another avenue where law enforcement and family members can step in if somebody’s struggling either with a mental health episode that’s maybe causing them to you know be considering harming themselves or if they’re considering some sort of outward act of violence,” he said.

Bentz said he supports a national red flag law, but believes it’s not alone going to stop mass shootings.

“That’s not the end-all, be-all, that’s not going to solve everything," he said. "We still unfortunately have situations where people are able to arm themselves with very dangerous weapons and I think that continues to be something we have to look at.”

Gun owners get their weapons back unless the state petitions the Superior Court to block their release.

Bentz said just because someone has a mental illness doesn’t necessarily mean they’re violent, and people don’t need to have a mental illness to be violent.

Gun control legislation in the state Senate was shelved earlier this year. Senate leadership said there’s not enough support for the measures.

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