The front-page article describing use of the Extreme Risk Protection Order, or red flag, law as rare (“Red flag law is used little in Mass.,” Aug. 10) could have been headlined: “Even in the state ranked one of the toughest on guns, red flag law saves lives.” Since its enactment last year, 20 red flag petitions were filed and 14 granted. That’s 14 families spared potentially horrific tragedies, 14 communities potentially spared trauma. I call that a success.
The Extreme Risk Protection Order law is primarily a suicide prevention measure that can also prevent violence against others, including domestic violence and mass shootings. In moments when a family is desperately seeking to save a loved one, this law is a lifeline. It provides a way to temporarily remove weapons so that the family has breathing room to get help. If 14 people die in a mass shooting, we are appropriately horrified. We should be no less so when 14 people die from avoidable gun violence over a year.
This law is doing what it was meant to — providing a new mechanism for safely removing guns from unstable situations. What we need is a public awareness campaign so that more families know about this important tool. In the meantime, I am grateful to live in a state that provided 14 families a safe path forward in a dark moment.
The writer is chair of the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence.