Illinois ranks at the bottom of the states in terms of using “red flag” gun laws

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CHICAGO (TBEN) — In the days following last year’s Highland Park parade massacre, much attention was paid to Illinois’ red flag law.

The law helps family members take guns off the hands of people with violent tendencies. But of the 19 states with red flag laws, Illinois ranks at or near the bottom for using the law during each of its three years on the books.

Why? TBEN 2’s Chris Tye tried to find out on Tuesday.

In Highland Park, the question was asked about the suspect’s history of threatening behavior and history with firearms, should a loved one have marked him and let a judge decide whether to confiscate his guns?

In that case, it didn’t happen, and it happens so rarely in Illinois that some experts are scratching their heads over what’s going on.

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“It’s frustrating, because I know the potential,” said Illinois State Representative Denyse Wang Stoneback (D-Skokie).

Stobenack was one of several state representatives who helped pass the red flag law – formally called the Firearm Resttraining Order Act – in Springfield

The law temporarily removes firearms from family members who engage in threatening or unsafe behavior, allowing a judge to suspend firearm owner ID cards and remove guns for up to a year.

It works when those relatives fill out firearm ban petitions with a county judge where the gun owner lives.

In a recent Johns Hopkins University study on policies to reduce gun violence in Illinois, their main recommendation was to improve implementation of the firearms restraining order.

Here’s part of why that is: In 2020 and 2021, Florida had 4,895 cases where petitions were filed to remove guns. In Illinois, the number was 105 during the same period.

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Although Florida is 30 percent larger in population than Illinois, the disparity is striking.

“They definitely got their hands on it after their tragedy in Parkland and really proactively used it to prevent tragedies,” Stoneback said.

But Illinois hasn’t seen the same thing, she said.

What Illinois will see is an infusion of money from the FBI to educate police, judges and the public about how Red Flag laws can help prevent mass shootings, suicides and domestic violence incidents before they take shape.

Such efforts have been going on for a year longer in Florida than in Illinois.

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“They’re more familiar with their red flag law, they’re more comfortable implementing and using it,” Stoneback said. “There’s a lot of hesitation here among, I think, law enforcement and courts as well — and maybe misunderstanding.”

The numbers we compared to Florida are again from 2020 and 2021. TBEN 2 took an early look at the numbers for 2022 in Illinois – and despite the attention paid to red flag laws following the Highland Park shooting, the number seems of firearm bans in Illinois may have fallen — not risen — last year.

The full report on the subject is not yet complete, but when it is, we will pass it along.

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