How to Deal With a Red Flag or Order of Protection Confiscation of Your Guns

Police officer at front door of home interrogating a woman or wi

Call them red flag gun confiscation orders, extreme risk protection orders, or just a plain old order of protection. Regardless of the name, if police show up out of the blue with one of those orders to take your guns, what should you do? It’s a good idea to think about it now to help minimize the disruption to your life and keep your options open going forward.

Don’t think this couldn’t ever happen to you? More and more state have these red flag orders where a family member, “intimate partner,” school administrator, co-worker, or medical professional can ask a court to consider issuance of one of these orders to confiscate your firearms.  

Sadly, the courts often employ a very low burden of proof for a judge to issue one of these orders. In the end, they generally issue them for two reasons: one, because you supposedly – key word there – present a threat to yourself or others. The second reason? No judge wants to deny one of these confiscation orders only to have the target then go off and commit mayhem with the guns.

Candidly, these orders are probably issued maliciously or vexatiously almost as often as they are legitimately. Divorce attorneys love to file them to create leverage in negotiating favorable property or child custody agreements.  

Gun-hating relatives may file them because they don’t like that you clean your icky guns while little Jimmy and Sally are at home and can see them. Or maybe the fact that you have guns just inflames their anti-gun bigotry and prejudice.

Maybe you took your little crumbsnatchers Trevor and Alexandra out to a range to teach them gun safety and show them how to safely shoot your handgun and maybe a rifle or two.  Worse yet, you might have shared or posted photos of them having a great time on social media. And you might have double-triggered certain gun-fearing relatives if your kids were pictured pulling the trigger on something like America’s favorite rifle, the AR-15.

Don’t think one of these orders could be used against you? Don’t be a fool. How is your relationship with your significant other?  

Here in Illinois, I regularly hear from guys (and occasionally gals) who have been hit with one of these court orders. One guy called the day after he got his. His spousal unit grabbed her purse and left in a huff after an argument a couple of weeks after they started what was supposed to be an amicable split. Turns out she went to the courthouse. Hours later, cops showed up to collect his guns.

Fortunately he’d sensed the crazy brewing and had already taken his guns over to his sister’s house. I can only imagine the priceless look on her face when the cops told her there were no guns to confiscate. And yes, a few grand and several months later, he got his FOID and carry license back.  

Another guy worked for the US government as a security contractor for cargo vessels. His job was to combat ship piracy and take-overs like we’ve seen in the Red Sea. He packed his bags and left after an argument with his soon-to-be ex.  

The next day the cops caught up with him, stripped him of his guns and his Firearms Owner ID card and carry license. The day after that he was suspended from his job. It took him over six months to get things ironed out.

Two years later, the State of Illinois re-suspended his FOID and carry licenses saying they wanted to re-investigate the matter. Once again, he lost his ability to go to work. Thousands of dollars and a lot of Tums later, he was once more cleared of wrongdoing and the licenses were restored.

Frankly, I think the good Lord was trying to tell him to move the hell out of Illinois, but that’s another matter altogether. The bottom line is that it’s easier than you may think to find yourself on the wrong end of one of these orders. Even worse for gun owners, there’s little or no recourse to recoup damages against those filing wrongful, vexatious, or malicious allegations.

So what can you do to prepare for a surprise visit from police with a red flag order in hand?

If you sense a spike in drama on the home front — such as a looming divorce or child custody dispute — you should preemptively re-locate at least some of your firearms (and maybe some ammo and magazines as well) to a trusted friend’s or relative’s place. I’ve done this for several friends. One had me hold about a hundred-plus guns for him.  

Many years ago, when I got divorced, some friends it did for me.

Even without drama, don’t keep all your eggs in one basket. Do you have an extra defensive pistol, shotgun and/or carbine (or three)? Store them with trusted friends or relatives. It’s a good hedge against fire or theft in addition to domestic unrest.

Helpful hint: keep knowledge of this outside cache between you, the guy upstairs, and your friend or relative. Just in case you might need a means of protecting yourself from a deadly threat that might arise.

Along the same lines, PVC pipe and glue at the local hardware store don’t cost much. And everyone has a shovel. Springtime makes for a fine time to clean up those beds and plant some flowers outside your home. You know…spruce things up a little.

Yeah, I know: lawyers take the fun out of everything. Just be sure to check your local laws in terms of compliance with a court order and continued possession for boomsticks in violation of a court order.

Having said that, there’s an old saying…it’s better to be tried by twelve than carried by six.

If you are served with a red flag order, you will become a “prohibited person” when it comes to firearm purchases. Not only would lying on a 4473 expose you to federal and probably state charges (unless your name is Hunter Biden), but the NICS check would probably block the sale even if you did lie and misrepresent your status.

Also under the category of “don’t do”: don’t try to block law enforcement from executing one of these red flag court orders. They are going to come into your home and seize those guns. They’ll do it over your dead body if needed.  

Gary Willis resisted one of these orders in Maryland and cops shot him dead at 5:17a.m. His response to banging on the door at that early hour was understandable. His resistance to their lawful confiscation order wasn’t.

Law enforcement will have the authority under to enter your residence and they will do it.  Take a deep breath, control your temper, and let them. Keep your mouth shut until your anger subsides to something less than red-hot. If you resist, they will use force and you will ultimately lose that confrontation.  

Don’t try to contest this on your doorstep. You won’t help your chances of getting your guns back at a later date by giving law enforcement a hard time.  

Instead, hire a good attorney and let them litigate the matter in court. If the filing against you was unfounded or malicious, evidence will likely show that’s the case and you’ll get your stuff back. 

In the experiences I’ve had helping those who have found themselves on the wrong end of the oders, that almost always happens in just a few months after a couple of court appearances.

Do what the judge tells you. Swallow your pride and your indignation for a time, behave yourself, and jump through the hoops and you’ll get your guns back.  

Good advice: help the cops collect the guns to expedite the completion of their mission.  That includes opening your gun safe. The cops will appreciate your assistance and you’ll get them out of your house and life sooner. At that point you can work with your lawyer to work through recovering your stuff. 

If the cops think you’re being coy or uncooperative, they may go over your entire house and property with a fine-tooth comb. If you’re really an a-hole about it they might cuff you for resisting or obstruction. Or both.

Perhaps the best way to protect yourself from these gun seizure comes by buying a little peace of mind. While you will lose the battle on the day the cops show up with a red flag, knowing you won’t have to spend a bunch of money on an attorney to win the war will help you stay calm as cops carry away your shotguns, rifles and handguns.

Some gun owners insurance programs such as US LawShield and USCCA will represent clients in red flag hearings. 

Initially I did that in Illinois until I learned that the Land of Lincoln’s red flag law is so poorly written it’s almost never used. Instead, it’s a lot easier to use the long-established order of protection or similar court measures to seize guns. Research your own state’s policies and procedures. A little knowledge goes a long way. 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *