Despite loophole, judge says Red Flag law in Allen County ‘extremely effective’

Local News

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — How well does the Red Flag work in Allen County? “It is very effective,” says Judge Fran Gull of the Allen County Superior Court.

Since 2018, Gull has fielded all red flag cases. She says the law is intended “to get a gun out of the hands of a mentally ill individual that is going to harm themselves and potentially harm other people.”

Gull’s interpretation of the law means all written submissions come directly to her, bypassing a decision from the prosecutor’s office. The Marion County prosecutor was criticized for declining to use the law to pursue court hearings that could have prevented a man from accessing the guns used to kill eight people at a FedEx facility last month. Marion County Judge Amy Jones’s subsequent new guidance now looks more like Allen County’s.

“I have always interpreted the law to mean that the written submission comes directly to the court,” Gull explains. “The officers have to make a written submission to the court for the court to make the findings in our county. They also provide that information to our local prosecutor, but I make the finding outside of the purview of the prosecutor and then notify them when I set it for an evidentiary hearing.”

Since 2018, when the law received renewed publicity after the high school shooting in Parkland, Florida, Gull has seen over 100 filings. She found probable cause to remove the gun in all but “a handful” of cases. However, 30 to 60 cases are still pending.

“That, in my opinion, is where the loophole exists,” she said.

The law requires both a probable cause finding and an evidentiary hearing. If a person fails to show up for the hearing, authorities keep the gun but cannot rule to prevent the person from buying additional firearms. Gull believes the probable cause is “the finding we should be using to close the loophole to prevent people from purchasing and owning and transferring property at that point. Right now, the way the statute reads is that there has to be a finding and then at the hearing that I find them to be a dangerous individual. That’s the finding that goes down to the state to notify the authorities that this person shouldn’t have a weapon. So it’s that timeframe in between the filing and the finding that we’ve got that gap.”

Still, Gull thinks the law is doing what it was written to do: help friends and family disarm a loved one before they can do harm.

“Most of the time, 98% of the time, the officers are taking individuals to Parkview Behavioral or they’re taking them to a mental health facility and doing a 24 hour detention. It pushes them into getting the treatment that they need. So it’s worked pretty good,” Gull said.

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