Lincoln senator offers red flag law to take guns from people at extreme risk

JoANNE YOUNG / Lincoln Journal Star

It’s known around the country as the red flag law, and it’s been considered by 29 states and adopted by 13 of them.

Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld introduced a similar bill Thursday in Nebraska, this one called the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act, to enable law enforcement to remove firearms from a person at high risk of harming themselves or others.

Morfeld said that in drafting the bill, he worked with law enforcement and students who planned and participated in the March for Our Lives rally in 2018.

Capt. Kevin Griger of the Sarpy County Sheriffs Office said in a news release the protection order would be critical to removing weapons from people during a mental health crisis. Law enforcement and the courts could keep communities safer while protecting due process rights of those gun owners.

A court process would ensure the protection order is used only in extreme cases with proof the person is a danger and has access to firearms.

“As a gun owner and an attorney this is a critical component for me,” Morfeld said. “Law enforcement, students and my constituents have made clear the need to have safeguards to ensure that those found to be suffering from severe mental illnesses and individuals who pose an immediate threat do not have access to firearms after an emergency court hearing.”

A petition for an extreme risk protection order must allege the person poses a significant risk of causing injury and has a firearm. It must be accompanied by an affidavit made under oath with statements, actions or facts that give rise to a reasonable fear of future dangerous acts by the person.

It also must identify firearms the person is believed to have and what other protection orders have been issued, if known.

Lincoln student Isabel Bousson said in a statement that school shootings have been around her whole life.

“… This legislation could make an immediate impact in our community, which would mean generations to come wouldn’t have to worry about the threat of mass shootings, first and foremost in their schools, but also in their communities,” Bousson said.

Lincoln High School student Bouthaina Ebrihim said the law could “dim the culture of school shootings and ignorance to gun violence in America.”

In an emailed statement, a spokesperson for the National Rifle Association said the NRA supports risk protection orders that respect due process of rights and provide care for those found mentally ill, but most passed last year do not.

“Not only do they fail to provide any sort of mental health treatment but they allow the state to deny law-abiding gun owners their due process of rights. If the state can deny due process to these law-abiding residents then what’s to stop them from denying any right to any group of people?” said Catherine Mortensen with the NRA.