Understanding the State of Illinois red flag law

Making sense of red flag laws in Illinois
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 5:47 PM CDT
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CARBONDALE, Ill. (KFVS) - United States Senator Tammy Duckworth says she would like to see a national red flag law.

Illinois passed it’s own red flag law back in 2019. It allows family members to petition courts to temporarily remove firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others.

“So I think one of the things we need to do as a community is to do a better job of letting people know that these red flag laws exist,” Shelly Page, assistant law professor at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, said.

Page said it’s important to keep this law in place.

“Because it’s not just a person, a wife, an ex-wife, a girlfriend to use it in a vindictive, petty, spiteful manner. You still have to go before a trial, a judge and prove to the judge that this person is a danger to themselves or to others,” Page said.

Red Flag laws are civil orders that allow states to temporarily take away firearms from individuals who present a danger to themselves or others.

“What’s important when we are talking about temporarily restraining someone’s right to bear arms, we’re talking about due process. And we want to make sure that if we do it, there’s just cause to do it and then that there’s due process. With Illinois restraining orders for firearms, a judge oversees the process,” said Joe Cervantez, Jackson County state’s attorney.

Cervantez said his office has had very few of these types of cases. He goes on to say that this is not a democratic or republican issue.

“Red flag laws, otherwise in Illinois called firearm restraining orders, are not a political issue. It’s just a tool for prosecutors and for the public to be able to make sure our neighborhoods are safe. If it’s used the right way, it doesn’t infringe on anyone’s rights,” he said.

Cervantez said you have to appear in front of a judge through this process. If a restraining order is granted, it lasts for 14 days and could be extended for another 6 months.

Cervantez said the red flag law or firearms restraining order, is another tool he and his office can use.

“It’s a powerful tool in my office to help the public out, when somebody displays behavior but has not broken a law,” he said.

According to Page, between 2019 and 2020, only 55 red flag laws were used in the state of Illinois.

Page said we just need to have a better understanding of the law.

“If we did a better job as a community, of letting family members, law enforcement, medical personal know this is not a permanent ban, this is not a lifetime ban, it’s not even a criminal penalty attached to these red flag laws, it’s a civil proceeding,” Page said.

The red flag law also prevents those under the order from purchasing new firearms.

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