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Despite some calls to repeal it, Fairfax County officials said Monday that the county’s “red flag law” is an important tool in removing firearms from those who are considered a risk to themselves or themselves. for the others.

“Guns and domestic violence don’t mix,” said James Walkinshaw, Braddock District Supervisor on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

He said that a victim of domestic violence whose perpetrator has access to a gun is five times more likely to be murdered.

“Guns contribute to domestic violence. They dramatically increase the lethality of domestic violence situations, ”Walkinshaw said.

The law removes guns from the hands of those determined to pose a risk to themselves or others, and prevents them from purchasing a gun. A high risk emergency court order lasts 14 days, while a high risk permanent order is a more complex process and can be extended 180 days at a time indefinitely.

Since July 2020, when the law came into force, Fairfax County has issued 34 emergency orders and 18 substantial risk orders.

“Some in Richmond have expressed their willingness to repeal these red flag laws,” said Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano. “We cannot let this happen. It’s too important.

Officials spoke about the different uses of the law, including for victims of domestic violence as well as those with mental illness.

Belinda Massaro, head of the mobile crisis unit at the Fairfax-Falls Church Community Services Board, said suicide is the leading cause of death in the United States and that guns are the most common method of suicide death. current.

“This law can be a public health and rescue tool to prevent gun tragedies,” Massaro said. “It temporarily restricts access to firearms for people who are at a higher risk of injuring themselves or others. Family members are often in the best position to identify a crisis situation and know when their loved one is at risk of hurting themselves or others.

She said that an individual history of mental illness or a specific diagnosis is not a good predictor of violence.

Massaro added that 4% of acts of violence in the United States are associated with serious mental illness and that people with mental illness are more often victims of violence than perpetrators.

“Studies have shown that people with mental illness are 23 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than others.

Descano said the red flag law is crucial for authorities to limit guns that end up in the hands of someone who is violent.

He also said he provides procedural guarantees to ensure that no firearm is withdrawn without due process.

“It is an essential tool for my office and our law enforcement partners to disrupt and prevent potential gun violence,” Descano said. “To anyone listening, I would say the big takeaway is if you know someone with a gun, acting in a way that concerns you, please speak up. Help us prevent another gun tragedy.

Valerie Bonk started working at OMCP in 2016 and has lived her entire life in Howard County, Maryland. She is thrilled to be a reporter for WTOP and to tell stories on the air. She works both as a television and radio reporter in the Maryland and Washington areas. Contact her at [email protected]