Indiana’s version which is named for Timothy “Jake” Laird, a police officer who was shot in the line of duty in 2004, is one of the oldest such statutes in the country.
Under the law, a person is considered dangerous if he “presents an imminent risk” to himself or others, or if he fits certain other criteria, including unmedicated mental illness or a documented propensity for violence.
The seizure of weapons under these laws is often temporary. In Indiana, once a weapon is taken by the police, prosecutors have 14 days to justify the seizure to a judge. If the judge decides the person is so unstable they should not be permitted to have guns, the seizure stands. If the judge rules otherwise, the firearms are returned.
Even if a judge decides that someone should not be allowed to possess firearms, that determination lasts only for a year. After that, prosecutors must either again prove that the person is unfit to possess firearms, or the ruling is lifted.
Officials have said that they seized a shotgun from Mr. Hole last March, after his mother reported that he might try to commit “suicide by cop,” according to Paul Keenan, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Indianapolis office.
At that time, Mr. Hole, was taken to a local hospital for evaluation, according to a police report obtained by the Indianapolis Star. The shotgun seized by officials at that time had been purchased by Mr. Hole just 24 hours earlier, the report indicates. According to Mr. Keenan, the shotgun was never returned.
If that ruling had come down, the ban on gun possession likely would have expired last month, and the authorities would have had to return to court to prove that Mr. Hole was still dangerous. Even if a red-flag law applied in this case, and Mr. Hole were barred from buying a gun from a licensed gun dealer, said Vop Osili, the president of the Indianapolis City Council, he still could have bought a gun from an unlicensed dealer, “no questions asked.”
Mr. Osili said local officials are at the mercy of state and federal lawmakers when it comes to either passing new gun laws or plugging the loopholes in existing ones. “Our hands are tied,” he added. “We are left in a reactive mode rather than a proactive mode.”