Exploring Indiana's Red Flag Law

NOW: Exploring Indiana’s Red Flag Law

INDIANAPOLIS (CBS 58) -- August 18, 2004 around 2 a.m. An urgent call hits police radios. 

"This guy had an AK rifle," said Mike Laird. 

He shoots five officers, including Officer Jake Laird, who was killed. 

"The bullet came out of the rifle struck Jake," said Laird. 

His badge number is on his dad's hat. His name is also memorialized in state law. 

"When they talk about Jake's name, it's an honor," said Laird. 

The suspect who killed him also killed his mother. He was said to be schizophrenic and not taking his medication. 

Months before, officers had placed him under immediate detention and taken his guns. When he was released, he got the guns back. But that was before the Jake Laird Law. 

A year after Laird's death, lawmakers gave police the ability to take someone's guns, if they are a threat to themselves or others. 

"Since it's inception in 2005, we've used right here in Indianapolis over 700 times," said Indianapolis Fraternal Order of Police President Rick Snyder. 

The law allows officers to take guns from someone who is an imminent risk of injury to themselves or others, or it's probable they will hurt themselves or others in the future, and they have a mental illness and are not taking medication or they have a tendency for violent or suicidal behavior. 

"This isn’t a solve all, it’s not a solution, a one size fits all, it’s simply another tool that’s at the disposal of law enforcement officers to take action in the middle of a crisis and if they say and believe they have probable cause to seize those weapons and get that person help, they can do so," said Snyder. 

In some cases, a warrant is used right away. In others, an officer can take the guns and then file an affidavit with the court explaining why the guns were taken. A hearing will then take place. If the court agrees the guns can be taken, a person can eventually petition to get them back. If and when it's determined a person is no longer considered dangerous, they get the guns back. 

When asked if he believed the law had stopped mass shootings, suicides and other tragedies, Indiana's attorney general, Curtis Hill said, "Well that's unclear, it's hard to determine what didn't happen because you had something in place to prevent something from happening, it certainly is a measure that makes sense."

"One thing we have to be clear about, neither the red flag nor other types of things is anything that's going to guarantee that we can stop mass shootings."

One study did look at the law's impact on suicides, and found a 7.5% reduction in gun suicides.

Several changes were made to the law earlier this year. 

"Prior to this year you were dangerous under this statute and could have your second amendment rights infringed upon if you were not a current danger to anyone but if you may become a danger in the future -- may," said Guy Relford, a Second Amendment Attorney and firearms instructor. 

Relford says he understands why people support the law. 

"Police officers I know and respect, including people in leadership positions around Indiana see the red flag law as a very important tool for them to separate someone who is truly a threat," said Relford. 

But he says he has had clients caught up the law. 

"I've represented dozens of people who have been caught up in it who were not a risk to anyone because the statute was too broad."

He was one of the people who helped make changes to the law. 

"The key is to narrowly define who the law applies to, to limit it to people who are truly a threat to themselves or others, and to be as absolutely rigorous and demanding as we can possibly be on due process requirements because we’re talking about a constitutionally protected right and what’s lost is we’re also talking about people who have not committed a crime," said Relford, "We’re talking about people who have not committed a crime, who have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, and we’re going to deprive them of that right in the name of safety.hat’s a tough balance and it’s a reason they’re so controversial. 

Changes to the law also closed a loophole, preventing someone from buying new guns, even if they had their current guns taken away because of the law. 

"The main thing I like people to know about the Jake Laird Law is it's not a anti-gun law," said Mike Laird. 

For Laird, it's a step to prevent what happened to his son, from happening to anyone else. 

"I don't care if it even saved one person ya know, it's good."

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