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Governor Gina Raimondo will sign an executive order to establish the policy, making Rhode Island the sixth state in the country to do so. President Donald Trump is also considering a similar order, sources told Bloomberg News.
Ms Raimondo said she was spurred to action by the tragedy in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed when a gunman opened fire on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
“[Rhode Island] isn’t going to wait a minute longer for Congress to take action on gun violence,” Ms Raimundo tweeted. “If they won’t act, we will.”
The new policy gives requires people to turn over their firearms and prevents them from buying new ones if a judge determines they pose an imminent danger. A court hearing must be held within 21 days, and the order can be extended after that.
The FBI and a local sheriff’s office both received repeated tips about troubling behaviour the alleged Parkland shooter, 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz, and failed to follow up. The Rhode Island version of the policies allows for family members – not just law enforcement officials – to file a petition to have the guns removed.
The Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association voted unanimously last week to ask the state’s general assembly to pass a similar law. Ms Raimondo also urged the legislature to pass the law, which could be repealed less easily than an executive order.
Advocates say the law will help get guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals, possibly preventing shootings like the one in Parkland. Gun-rights advocates like the National Rifle Association, however, argue that allowing a judge to take away someone’s firearms could be a violation of the second amendment.
California, Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Connecticut already have red flag statutes in place. It is unclear how effective these laws are at preventing mass shootings, but a 2016 study from Duke University found that the Connecticut law appeared to have prevented some suicides.
Public polling in the wake of the Florida shooting shows that the majority of Americans support stricter gun control laws, with a CNN-SSRS poll showing that 70 percent of Americans now back tougher gun legislation. The same poll found only 52 per cent favoured such changes after the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October.