Va. lawmakers consider making more red flag law data available for research purposes

Va. lawmakers consider making more red flag law data available for research purposes
It’s been more than six months since Virginia’s red flag law took effect. (Source: wvir)

It’s been more than six months since Virginia’s red flag law took effect. Apart from a few news articles, there’s been little data on how authorities around the state are using it to seize guns from people deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Legislation proposed in the House of Delegates would change that, giving researchers more access to information kept in a State Police registry meant to track who substantial risk orders have been filed against in Virginia courts.

The data freed up by the bill, according to Del. Shelly Simonds, D-Newport News, its patron, would be scrubbed of all personally identifying information. That means no one would have access to a list of names. But more general data would be available to give policymakers a better sense of how the law is being applied.

“For example, are they being used in one part of the state more than another part of the state?,” Simonds said as she presented the bill in subcommittee Wednesday. “Are they being used more for mental health or for domestic violence? Are they being used against one community group more than another? Are we safer because of these laws?”

Supporters of the bill said it was an extension of a previous collaboration between the State Police and public safety researchers at the University of Virginia.

The bill passed the House Courts of Justice criminal-law subcommittee by a 5-2 vote Wednesday, with two Republicans opposed.

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