In Vermont, a Case of a Man Whose Gun Was Seized Under the Red Flag Law
By Melissa Block
This summer's mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, accelerated calls for more red flag or extreme risk laws in the states as well as helped jumpstart bills in Congress. The laws allow courts to order the seizure of firearms from those believed to pose an imminent danger to themselves or others. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have passed them.
But, while the political focus may be on mass shootings, states are using the laws far more often to prevent cases of individual gun violence, including suicide.
In gun-friendly Vermont, Republican Gov. Phil Scott signed a package of gun control legislation into law in April 2018, including an extreme risk law. He said he had been "jolted" into action by what he called a "near miss": an alleged plan by an 18-year-old to carry out a mass shooting at a high school in Fair Haven, Vt.
In the 16 months since the law has been in effect, Vermont, with a population of about 627,000, has issued some 30 extreme risk protection orders, or ERPOs.
One of them was served on 28-year-old Sean Laskevich, of Springfield, Vt. Appearing recently in Windsor County Superior Court, Laskevich chose not to contest the ERPO filed against him, so that he wouldn't complicate the criminal case he's also facing. Under the terms of the ERPO, Laskevich is prohibited from purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm for six months – or longer, if the order is renewed.
The incident that led to his legal trouble started just before 10 p.m. on July 26, when the Springfield Police Department started getting a flood of 911 calls