While there were many other errors in Robyn Thomas’ piece on Red Flag laws, the Washington Post allowed Dr. John Lott a chance to respond to her criticism of his work. A data file with a list of all the state laws and there content is available here.
Robyn Thomas’s April 25 Outlook essay, “Five Myths: Red-flag laws,” mischaracterized laws in ways that helped her advance the Giffords Law Center’s gun-control effort. She attacked my work showing that Baker Act/involuntary commitment laws are more effective than red-flag laws at dealing with people who are a danger to themselves or others. They offer judges a broader array of tools than just taking away a person’s guns, and provide the accused more legal protections, such as covering the cost of hearings for those who can’t afford it.
Thomas claimed that alternatives to red-flag laws “typically apply only after a violent act has been committed.” But 50 states have Baker Act-type laws, and all allow individuals to be evaluated before a violent act is committed. Both Baker Act and red-flag laws try to anticipate whether someone will commit harm.
Red-flag laws are overwhelmingly used when someone is seen as a suicide risk, yet the process doesn’t include mental health experts. Nor are these experts included when evaluating the risk to others.
John R. Lott Jr.,
The writer is president of the Crime Prevention Research Center.Letters to the Editor, Washington Post, May 7, 2021