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Do Red Flag Laws Save Lives or Reduce Crime?

December 2018

John R. Lott Jr., Carlisle E. Moody


This study analyzes the association (or lack thereof) between Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), better known as Red Flag laws, and lowering rates of murder and suicide at the state level. Using a fixed effects regression model across every state and Washington, D.C. from 1970 to 2017, researchers considered the following gun laws: “Three strikes, Right to carry, Castle doctrine, Stand your ground, Use a gun go to jail, Waiting period, Background check, private sale Background check, Safe storage law, Juvenile gun ban, One gun per month, and Saturday night special bans.” In the end, the study found a slight increase in murder and suicide in the immediate aftermath of a Red Flag law’s implementation, followed by a gradual decrease in both until they returned to pre-statute levels. Thus, according to this article, Red Flag laws have no effect

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Policy Implications

If - as this study suggests - ERPOs have no discernible effect on rates of murder and suicide, and actually may increase them as those who would harm themselves are dissuaded from saying anything to their loved ones for fear of having their possessions taken away, policymakers must look to other solutions for the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence.

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