Our viewpoint: Authorities should use red flag law whenever justified


Aim Media Indiana

Indiana has a robust “red flag” law, which was one of the first in the nation.

This law allows authorities to confiscate firearms from people who are deemed dangerous or mentally unstable and who have shown a propensity toward violence. If you are subject to the red flag law, you are no longer legally allowed to possess firearms.

This is a common-sense law that delineates irresponsible gun owners from responsible ones. The law also recognizes the right to own a firearm carries with it a responsibility to not use it in a way that jeopardizes public safety or puts others in harm’s way. In other words, the law says to gun owners, if you misuse it, you lose it.

If we have any quibble with the red flag law, it’s that it’s not invoked often enough in cases where, in our view, an offender has recklessly used a gun in a way that shows disregard for public safety.

We say that because it was news last week when Bartholomew County Prosecutor Lindsey Holden-Kay said a 74-year-old man who fired a gun at his neighbors, including a child, had been “red-flagged.”

“Jerry Lucas, who formerly lived on State Road 46 West, admitted in a plea bargain that he fired a shotgun in the direction of neighbor Justin Stott the evening of Nov. 24, 2022,” The Republic’s Mark Webber reported last week. “The incident on Thanksgiving occurred as Stott and his 10-year-old daughter were driving toward Lucas’ backyard on a golf cart, trying to find their family cat. Although Stott received a minor wound to the neck, his daughter was uninjured.”

Lucas pleaded guilty to Level 5 felony battery by means of a deadly weapon after an initial charge of attempted murder was dropped because his shotgun chamber had held a birdshot shell rather than something more lethal.

But Lucas also holed up in his home after the shooting, leading to a SWAT standoff. Bartholomew Superior Court 1 Judge James Worton determined Lucas was a danger to the public and demonstrated a disdain for authority, Webber reported.

We praise Holden-Kay for invoking the red flag statute in Lucas’ case, and we encourage her and other area prosecutors to use this tool more frequently in negotiating pleas with defendants who have dangerously used firearms.

Without going into specifics, we have seen multiple instances this year in Bartholomew and surrounding counties where we believe a defendant’s actions qualified for invoking the red flag law, but a prosecutor in his or her discretion chose not to pursue that remedy.

In our view, authorities should prioritize public safety, and we believe the red flag law is underutilized in cases where someone has misused a gun, placing the public in danger.

The red flag law protects the public by restricting guns from people who have demonstrated in their dangerous actions that they lack the responsibility required to possess a deadly weapon.

Felons by law are restricted from possessing guns, but the red flag also is a further affirmative legal, public statement that safeguards the public from a person who could pose a danger if armed. We see no reason why authorities would decline to red flag any defendant who uses a firearm in a manner that endangers the public.

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