During his inaugural address, Attorney General Josh Kaul voiced support for a “red flag” law which could potentially strengthen law enforcement’s power to confiscate guns from individuals who have been flagged as a risk to themselves or others. Along with Kaul, Governor Tony Evers has said he would support a “red flag” law, and some Republicans have expressed a willingness to discuss the issue. While a bill hasn’t been drafted, the mention of support of a potential bill has already caught the attention of gun rights advocates and counter protesters in Madison over the weekend.

While “Red Flag” laws differ between states, they center around strengthening law enforcement’s powers to take a gun away from someone deemed dangerous to themselves or others. USA Today detailed the process of how the “red flag” laws typically work:

…they generally allow law enforcement or family members to petition a judge for a “gun violence restraining order” or “extreme risk protection order” to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms.

The judge can issue an emergency, temporary order — without the gun owner being present —  to prevent immediate danger. But a full hearing must be scheduled quickly, offering the gun owner the ability to respond.

A longer order can be issued during the full hearing if there is enough evidence that the person is dangerous.

While there is no bill regarding the “red flag” law that has been formally introduced or drafted in Wisconsin, AG Josh Kaul’s supportive speech of the law during the inauguration has already sparked protests against the notion of the law around the capital. WKOW 27 news reported that a protest was organized primarily by the Wisconsin Patriots Alliance over the weekend, who believed the possibility of a “red flag” law is unconstitutional. Counter protesters against the group were also present.

Minority leader Rep Gordon Hintz & Majority leader Rep Jim Steineke aired views of the “red flag” law concept on the WHBY radio show Fresh Take with Josh Dukelow and their views on the protests surrounding the issue. On the protests:

Rep. Steineke: I really hope we can get away from this “protest everything just based on somebody something said culture” that we seem to be in right now. People have to calm down a little bit.

Rep. Hintz: Maybe there’s some fears out there with the new Governor and new Attorney General. Some folks are always looking for an avenue to get out there and speak in support of something. I don’t know this group and I don’t know the group, if it was a group, that responded to them.

On their views of a “red flag” law in Wisconsin:

Rep Steineke: The whole idea of a red flag law isn’t something that’s new, Obviously the devil would be in the details as far as what the administration and what the AG would propose. Talking to an Outagamie County judge that I know fairly well last week, he said in ninety percent of the cases they already have the ability to take weapons away when somebody presents a danger. I don’t think it might be as big of an issue here in the state as it is other places. But if there is a way we can get at that ten percent without affecting people’s civil liberties and constitutional rights then I think we should take a look at it and be open minded.

Rep Hintz: I am supportive of the red flag law. But I think if there are questions about it, let’s get a bill introduced, let’s have a hearing on it and let’s see what the trade-offs are from people that might feel one way or another. The reality is that we know that access to firearms is one of the largest ways that people harm themselves, factors in suicide, so we want to try and keep firearms out of the hands of people that might be looking to harm themselves or others in a way that’s constitutional. I think there is an avenue with red flag bills that allows that and we can look at other states. I don’t think this is an attempt to take anybody’s gun away, I think this is one of the bills that should have public health support, not necessarily get wrapped up in the gun debate. I’m hopeful that we will at least have a hearing on it to discuss it.

Without specific legislation proposed, opponents don’t know what they’re protesting and proponents don’t know what they’re supporting.

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