Minnesota’s Red Flag Law goes into effect Monday
Minnesotans will be able to petition the courts to prevent someone from purchasing or possessing firearms starting on Monday. Governor Walz signed the bill establishing Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) into law in May.
“There are people who are, for one reason or another, in an emotional or mental state where they’re a danger, a significant danger, to themselves or to other people around them,” said Sen. Ron Latz (DFL — St. Louis Park), one of the law’s authors.
The law allows a family or household member, law enforcement officer, city or county attorney, or guardian to petition the court. Neighbors, co-workers, classmates or acquaintances cannot request an ERPO.
There are two types of orders a judge can issue: an emergency order that lasts 14 days or a long-term order that can last between six months to a year. A long-term emergency protection order can only be granted after a hearing, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
“I think law enforcement will see situations where […] there’s early warning kind of indicators that would, I think, make law enforcement think this is an appropriate tool,” said Jeff Potts, the executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.
He’s been working to prepare law enforcement agencies on both how and when to petition the court for an order and what to do when a judge issues an ERPO.
“In Minnesota, the respondent has the option to turn the firearms over to law enforcement or a licensed federal firearms dealer,” Potts explained.
In cases where the court finds someone poses an “immediate and present danger” of bodily harm, the guns have to be immediately surrendered. If the court does not find an immediate danger, the subject of the order has up to 24 hours to hand over their firearms.
The guns are then stored until the order is lifted and then they’re returned.
“I do think that we may have to kind of fine-tune the law a little bit,” said Potts. “We certainly don’t want the person to be served with the order and have up to 24 hours before they have to dispossess the firearms. We really hope that’s not the time they decide to do something very bad.”
If the subject of the ERPO does not transfer their firearms, law enforcement can execute a warrant.
“Hopefully we’ll find over time that like most states it does save some lives,” said Potts.
The person who’s asked to turn over their guns can request a hearing if one isn’t scheduled, where they can present evidence.
“This is a way of protecting families, neighbors, friends, school children and others from people who are posing a significant risk,” said Latz.
He points to preventing mass gun violence events as well as suicides. According to the Minnesota Department of Health, suicides accounted for nearly 70% of all firearm-related deaths statewide in 2020.
“In Minnesota, there is an average of one death suicide death by firearm every day,” said Latz. “This will literally save people’s lives.”