May 31, 2022
With the growing number of states passing or proposing red-flag laws (also called Extreme Risk Protection Orders or ERPOs), one company that provides insurance coverage for armed self-defense incidents is reminding its members that it also provides legal coverage for fighting red-flag law confiscations.
Texas-based U.S. LawShield has more than 700,000 members across the country and, according to USLS president Kirk Evans, his firm provides protection for those targeted by wrongful confiscation without due process.
“One of my main gripes about those laws is who do you let exercise them,” Evans said in an exclusive interview with Firearms News. “In some of the states, it’s not only a family member, but it can be a dating relationship or a former dating relationship. So, an ex-girlfriend gets mad at you and all she has to do is file a red-flag petition on you. The next thing you know your guns are gone and you’re having to hire a lawyer to defend yourself.”
In that case, both eventualities—losing your guns and having to come up with attorney fees—create a lose-lose for the person caught up in the unfair confiscation of their firearms. In fact, there are important aspects to it that many have likely not considered.
“It's not a criminal case, so you don’t get a court-appointed attorney,” Evans said. “So, you have to pay for the whole thing. The worst part is a lot of folks could be faced with saying, ‘I’ve got to come up with 10 or 20 grand or more to fight this thing, or I can say goodbye to my $500 Glock. What am I going to do?’ Some people make that choice, but we don’t believe they should have to.
“Another troublesome part is in criminal situations, you tend to get these laws strictly analyzed by the courts of appeal. So even if there is a bad criminal law that is unconstitutional, that guy gets a lawyer trial, and he gets a lawyer for appeal. But for red-flag laws, if you lose at trial court, then you have to decide if you can come up with another 15 or 20 grand for an appeal or give up your firearm.”
One of the problems with such laws is they completely bypass the longstanding tenet of due process. Most of these laws don’t provide a gun owner with any notice or an opportunity to appear and defend himself or herself. Typically, someone is going to file such a motion ex parte, without notifying you, and they’re going to have a hearing without you. And, if they prevail, the judge is going to order that your firearm be confiscated.”
That being the case, what’s a guy to do when the sheriff or marshall shows up at his door demanding his firearm or firearms? Evans said that answer is simple for the members of his organization.
“Number one, very, very calmly comply because the first piece of evidence in the next hearing is going to be your reaction when they come to get your firearms,” he said. “They’re going to have body cams and be taking notes for the report, and if you flip out and act crazy—which everybody is going to want to do, I know I would want to—that’s going to be Exhibit A at the next hearing. ‘Look how unstable this guy is. This is why he or she doesn’t need a firearm. This is how they deal with law enforcement.’ This is not something you’re going to be able to win there.”
The next step is where U.S. LawShield’s large network of independent program attorneys (IPAs) comes into play. These are the same attorneys you would speak to and who would defend you if you were in a self-defense incident and needed representation.
“Number two, call the U.S. LawShield emergency hotline at your first opportunity,” Evans advised. “Get the independent program attorney on the phone and have them walk you through it. Then your next and best opportunity is going to be the follow-up hearing, where you are allowed to appear, present evidence and confront the accuser and witnesses.
“If you were to lose that one, we also cover the appeal—the lawyer will be there for that as well.”
Over the past few years U.S. LawShield has been involved in only a handful of red-flag law cases in Florida and Colorado—all involving ex-spouses and divorce situations. But Evans expects to see more in the future with more politicians pushing such laws and more states enacting them.
In the end, most gun owners will never be affected by such laws. For those who are, they will face a tough, uphill legal battle as well as a huge drain of their savings account unless they have legal protection through a proven company specializing in such matters.
Freelance writer and editor Mark Chesnut is the owner/editorial director at Red Setter Communications LLC. An avid hunter, shooter and political observer, he has been covering Second Amendment issues and politics on a near-daily basis for the past 20 years.