Indiana's 'Red Flag' Gun Law
RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
And as Florida debates regulations on guns, the White House is looking into national measures to prevent mass shootings. One possible tactic is a red-flag gun law. That allows law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from people who they see as a danger to themselves or others. Indiana is one of five states with a red-flag law. In the days after the Florida attack, Republican state Attorney General Curtis Hill Jr. met with President Trump to discuss school safety. We reached him to find out how the law works.
CURTIS HILL JR.: Well, the red-flag law in Indiana is a tool that allows police officers to confiscate the guns off of individuals that they believe to be dangerous to themselves or dangerous to other people. That can also include possible mental illness and off-medication. By being able to remove the guns from that particular situation, the idea is to keep them from harming themselves or others. But the feature does have a due process claim to it in the sense that it requires a warrant to go before a court. Or in the situation of a warrantless seizure, the police officer is required to immediately apply to court so that the court takes judicial intervention.
MONTAGNE: Now, you circulated a reminder right after the Florida shooting, telling your colleagues that the red-flag law exists. Why did you feel that was necessary to remind them?
HILL JR.: Well, it was - it's not a law that is largely known or utilized. We saw this as an opportunity, particularly as we have these types of actions that take place. And folks say, well, there were signs. There were red flags.
MONTAGNE: Do you have figures on how many times officers have stepped in and functionally seized guns from someone believed to be dangerous?
HILL JR.: I do not have numbers to that effect. I know that it has happened. I anticipate that it will happen more so in light of the advisement that we sent out to making sure that prosecutors and law enforcement officers are aware of it.
MONTAGNE: And what would be an example of where a gun is, in fact, confiscated?
HILL JR.: Well, you might have a situation in a domestic scene where police roll up. And tempers are hot. And there may be words that are used in the presence of a police officer or words that are described to a police officer that would suggest that this could be a situation that would require it. There'd be another situation where a police officer is made aware that someone has documented mental illness or a documented propensity to violence. Those are the types of things that we would look at and say, gee, why didn't somebody do something? And this is an opportunity to do something but still guard and protect the individual's ultimate rights.
MONTAGNE: One reason gun advocates have tolerated red-flag laws - partially, because there's not that many of them. But, I mean, the word confiscating guns should be real dirty words for gun advocates. But the fact is these laws don't require restrictions on gun ownership. Indiana itself has one of the most permissive gun ownership laws in the country. And in this past few days...
HILL JR.: That's correct.
MONTAGNE: Yeah. And in the past few days, a bill to loosen gun laws advanced in your state House. How much can a red-flag law accomplish in that environment?
HILL JR.: Well, I think it accomplishes a great deal. The issue here is not regarding who owns guns. The issue is regarding a potential threat of danger by someone who is in possession of a gun that may use it in an inappropriate manner either upon themselves or upon a family member or others.
MONTAGNE: In the light of all these mass shootings and especially school shootings, would you support measures that restrict gun ownership, generally?
HILL JR.: I don't support measures that restrict gun ownership from a theoretical standpoint. I'm a firm believer in it's the conduct that takes place. It's important that we hold people accountable for the destruction that occurs.
MONTAGNE: Curtis Hill Jr. is the state attorney general in Indiana. Thank you very much for joining us.
HILL JR.: Thank you very much.
(SOUNDBITE OF DIOS TRIO'S "MOST DEFINITELY EISLEY")
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.