Prosecutors: WA State's 'Red Flag' Laws Should Include Minors

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Posted: Nov 27, 2018 9:55 PM
Prosecutors: WA State's 'Red Flag' Laws Should Include Minors

Prosecutors in Washington State are looking to expand their Red Flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOS), to include minors. Under this law, judges are able to temporarily remove a person's firearms if he or she is deemed a threat to themselves or others. The initial order can be brought about by police or family members and is good for 14 days and, if need be, can be expanded to a year, KIRO-TV reported.

The decision to include minors comes after a legislative task force met over the last several months to discuss ways to keep mass shootings from occurring. One of the recommendations they were given was making it known that Red Flag laws can, and should, apply to minors as well. 

“We’ve had that issue come up multiple times, and we’ve been asked around the state by other law enforcement agencies that are struggling with the same issue. To date, I don’t know of any that have been filed yet against juveniles, but we have one particular case where we are making that recommendation to law enforcement right now,” said Prosecutor Kimberly Wyatt with King County’s Regional Domestic Violence Firearms Unit, the only specialized unit in the state that helps other police agencies statewide and family members with ERPOs .

The reason this issue came up? A minor is facing criminal charges, the father refuses to cooperate with law enforcement but he owns guns. The father allegedly won't tell law enforcement where his firearms are.

"We would file the ERPO against the juvenile because the father has access to firearms in the home, and the father is not being cooperative with law enforcement to confirm that the firearms are out of the home,” Wyatt said. "We’re trying to say, ‘Dad lawfully can possess those guns,’ and we would hope that most parents have given law enforcement reassurances where the firearms are. But in this particular case, the father has declined to give any of those reassurances. So we would say that the juvenile could not be in that home with access to firearms. If dad wants to keep the firearms in the home and not share the information, you know that puts him in a difficult position."

In cases like this, the father would either have to place his firearms elsewhere if his son stays in the house or the son would have to live elsewhere.

Washington was one the first of five states to enact Red Flag laws, which passed the legislature in 2016. Another eight passed similar laws this year following the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.