Description of original award (Fiscal Year 2023, $700,224)
Red flag laws, or risk protection orders (RPOs), have been promoted as an indispensable tool to reduce gun violence, especially deadly mass shootings. Despite the popularity of these laws, only a handful of studies have examined their usage, efficacy, and implementation, typically utilizing small samples of a few hundred incidents. Relying on small samples limits generalizability, precludes multivariate analyses, and prevents the examination of rare outcomes (e.g., homicides, mass shootings). Complicating the matter further is inconsistent implementation, an issue largely ignored in the literature. Accordingly, we still do not know whether RPOs actually reduce interpersonal gun violence, or why jurisdictions vary so dramatically in their usage.
This mixed-methods study will address these gaps using data from Florida, a large, diverse state with the highest rate of RPO implementation. The first phase of this project will feature the creation of the largest and most representative database on RPOs to date, including 14,000 to 16,000 cases in Florida from 2018 to 2023. The second phase utilizes four sets of quantitative analyses at the individual, agency, county, and state levels to evaluate the efficacy of RPOs in reducing interpersonal gun violence and mass shootings. The third phase employs mixed methods to explain disparities in RPO implementation across jurisdictions. Quantitative analyses will determine the agency and contextual factors that predict RPO usage across the entire state; and qualitative data from 15 focus groups with law enforcement officers from distinct jurisdictions will identify facilitators and barriers to RPO implementation.
The results of this research will strengthen the knowledge base on RPOs and firearm violence, and will represent the most rigorous and comprehensive evaluation of any state’s red flag law to date. The findings will reveal the characteristics of Florida’s RPO cases and respondents; agency- and county-level variation in the use of RPOs; the conditions under which RPOs are effective in reducing firearm violence, both for individuals and the population as a whole; the political, social, and practical constraints associated with the implementation of RPOs; and what measures law enforcement should take to prevent firearm violence through RPOs.
In addition to the large, comprehensive dataset and transcripts that will be submitted at the end of the project, deliverables will include a policy brief, a webinar, peer-reviewed manuscripts, presentations to agencies and at national conferences, and a final report provided to NIJ, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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