Red Flag Law

About the Law

The media and some organizations sometimes refer to ESROs and similar laws as “Red Flag Laws.” On July 1, 2020, the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Emergency Substantial Risk Order (ESRO) law, commonly referred to as a “red flag law,” went into effect, making Virginia the 19th state to enact such legislation.

ESRO provides necessary procedural safeguards to ensure that no firearm is removed without due process while ensuring that tragedies, like the school shooting in Parkland, Fla., are not repeated.

Requesting an Emergency Substantial Risk Order (ESRO)

Virginia’s ESRO law prevents individuals who show signs of being a threat to themselves or others from purchasing, possessing or transporting any kind of firearm. If you know of someone with a gun acting in a way that concerns you, speak up to prevent a gun tragedy:
 

To request an ESRO, call the Police non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.

If there is an immediate danger, call or text 9-1-1.

Prevent a Gun Tragedy Speak Up! logo

Dec. 13 Information Campaign Kick-off

Watch video of the ESRO/Red Flag Law information campaign kick-off. The Dec. 13 event was covered by local media.

 

Who Can Request/Seek an ESRO*

The following are examples of who may report potential for a gun tragedy:

  • Family Members
  • Guardians
  • Domestic Partners
  • Romantic Partners or Dates
  • Parent of a Child in Common
  • Roommates
  • Police Officers
  • Mental Health Professionals

* Only a Commonwealth Attorney or a Police Officer can act on the report to seek or petition for an ESRO by going to a magistrate or a judge of any court.

What Happens When You Request an ESRO

Upon the reporting of a credible concern to the Office of the Commonwealth Attorney or a law-enforcement officer, the Fairfax County Police Department will:

  1. conduct an independent investigation, which determines whether or not the subject of the order posseses a substantial risk to themselves or others in the near future by being in possession of or acquiring a firearm.
  2. seek a court order from a magistrate or judge of the Circuit Court, General District Court or Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court to temporarily remove a gun or guns from individuals who have been determined to be an immediate danger to themselves or others.

There will be a court hearing within 14 days of issuance.

The ESRO law requires, for the duration of the order:

  • temporary removal of guns from the subject of the order
  • the subject of the order relinquish their concealed handgun permit to the courts
  • prohibits new gun purchases by the subject of the order

The ESRO law allows for the subject of an order to file an appeal to dissolve the order, no earlier than 30 days from the date the order was issued.

How the Subject of the ESRO is Impacted

The ESRO law provides necessary procedural safeguards to ensure that no firearm is removed without due process. 

The ESRO law allows for the subject of an order to file an appeal to dissolve the order, no earlier than 30 days from the date the order was issued.

The ESRO law helps people protect someone who presents a danger to themselves or others by temporarily prohibiting them from accessing guns.  

This creates safer circumstances for the individual to stabilize their behavior while staying safe, seeking treatment, or accessing resources to address the underlying causes of their dangerous behaviors.


The subject to a Substantial Risk Order can have their guns transferred to another individual during the Substantial Risk Order Hearing in Circuit Court. The following criteria have to be met for the Police Department to transfer the guns:

  1. the person subject to the order and the transferee appear at the hearing;
  2. at the hearing, the attorney for the Commonwealth advises the court that a law-enforcement agency has determined that the transferee is not prohibited from possessing or transporting a firearm;
  3. the transferee does not reside with the person subject to the order;
  4. the court informs the transferee of the requirements and penalties under § 18.2-308.2:1; and
  5. the court, after considering all relevant factors and any evidence or testimony from the person subject to the order, approves the transfer of the firearm subject to such restrictions as the court deems necessary.
Fairfax Virtual Assistant