Special Report

States Where the Government Will Take Your Gun by Force

The Bill of Rights outlines many of the most basic freedoms Americans are entitled to – the right to free speech and religion, protection from cruel and unusual punishment, the right to an attorney, and the right to keep and bear arms are all among them. Unlike most fundamental rights, however, the right to firearm ownership is not absolute. 

Under federal law, certain groups – including some convicted felons, fugitives, non-citizens, and those with certain mental illnesses – are prohibited from firearm ownership. Though possession of a firearm is a criminal offense for such individuals, there is no legal mechanism to proactively ensure compliance. 

In the absence of federally backed enforcement protocols, many states have enacted their own policies that not only mandate, but also ensure that certain individuals give up their guns. Depending on the circumstances, state and local law enforcement in some parts of the country can confiscate an individual’s firearms for months or even years at a time. 

Reviewing state-level laws compiled by the Giffords Law Center, a gun violence prevention group, 24/7 Wall St. identified the states where the government can take your gun. Without exception, the laws in the states on this list target only those deemed to pose a direct threat to themselves or others and impose no restrictions on responsible, law-abiding gun owners. 

Of the 32 states on this list, the majority have enacted a set of laws known as extreme risk protection orders, or ERPOs. ERPO laws temporarily remove firearm access for persons showing clear warning signs of violence. They are often used to prevent potential suicides and mass shootings. (Here is a look at the number of American mass shootings every year.)

In some states, families and household members can initiate ERPO interventions, while in others, only law enforcement officials can. The level of proof needed to execute an ERPO also varies by state. In some cases, a preponderance of evidence is justification enough, while in others, a higher level of clear and convincing evidence is required. Generally, when an ERPO is carried out, the individual in question must relinquish their firearm or firearms to the proper authorities or else have their guns confiscated by law enforcement. 

Many states without ERPO laws are on this list because of laws designed to verify that individuals convicted of crimes that prohibit firearm ownership have, in fact, relinquished their guns. In other states, law enforcement officials are compelled to remove firearms at the scene of domestic violence emergency calls. (Here is a look at the states where gun related crimes are surging.)

Click here to see the states where the government will take your gun by force.

Click here to read our detailed methodology.

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