Lesson Plan: Should the federal government enact "red flag" laws to prevent gun violence?

Red Flag Laws to Prevent Gun Violence

National Alliance on Mental Illness senior policy adviser Ronald Honberg explained red flag laws at the state level and Congressional efforts to promote these laws. He also spoke about misconceptions about mental illness and the risk factors for gun violence.


This lesson looks at legislation that would provide federal grants for states to enact red flag laws. Red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders, allow law enforcement to remove firearms from individuals showing risks of violence. This lesson provides background information on red flag laws and has students view video clips of members of Congress and representatives from interest groups about this legislation. Students will use these clips to argue if federal red flags should be enacted to prevent gun violence.


  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have the students respond to the following question:

    • What actions can the government do to prevent gun violence?

    • What rights do individuals have relating to gun ownership?

    Review and discuss the students' answers. Address any misconceptions. Have the students view the following video clip explaining red flag laws and the role that the federal government can play in enacting these rules. Students can use the questions associated with video clip to guide their viewing.

    Video Clip 1: Red Flag Laws to Prevent Gun Violence (4:03)

    • What does a red flag law do?

    • Describe the red flags laws that are currently enacted in the United States.

    • How can the federal government play a role in encouraging red flag laws nationwide?

    • Describe the current research on the impact of red flag laws.

    Have the students explain their answers to the introductory questions. Using the handout below, students will view the videos clips and provide a summary of the legislation and arguments for and against it. This section of the lesson can also be adjusted as a jigsaw activity.

    Handout: Federal Red Flag Laws (Google Doc)

  • Video Clip 6: California State Red Flag Laws (2:44)


    After viewing the videos and taking notes, students should write an argumentative essay responding to the following prompt.

    Should the federal government enact "red flag" laws to prevent gun violence? Support your arguments with evidence and examples from the video clips.

    This prompt can also be used to debate or discuss red flag laws using activities listed on the C-SPAN Classroom Deliberation website.


    As an exit slip, have the students answer the following question:

    • How is the debate over red flag laws an example of the conflict between individual rights and individual safety?

    Principles of Government and Red Flag Laws- For each of the following principles of government, describe how the debate of red flag laws relates.

    • Equal Protection
    • Individual Rights
    • Due Process Protections
    • Federalism

    Red Flag Law Interest Group Comparisons- Using the two examples of interest groups from the video clips, research how the National Rifle Association and the Brady organization are structured and view the issue of red flag laws. Compare their positions and explain why their positions might differ based on factors like their mission, membership and history.


    Reading a Bill: H.R.1236 - Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019- Read the text of H.R.1236 - Extreme Risk Protection Order Act of 2019 (Congress.gov). After reading the bill, provide the following:

    • What terms are defined in this bill? Why is it necessary to define these terms?
    • What does the Extreme Risk Protection Grant Program do?
    • What actions can be taken under the National Extreme Risk Protection Order Law?

    • Choose one of the video clips from the lesson and explain how that clip fits into the legislative process?
    • Using examples from the video clips, should laws regulating guns be enacted at the local, state or federal level?
    • Using examples from the video clips, what role can interest groups play in the legislative process?

Additional Resources


  • Affidavit
  • Civil Liberties
  • Confiscation
  • Court Order
  • Due Process
  • Ex Parte
  • Extreme Risk Protection Order
  • False Claim
  • Firearms
  • Mental Health
  • National Rifle Association
  • Preponderance Of Evidence
  • Presumption Of Innocence
  • Property Rights
  • Red Flag Laws
  • Second Amendment


Civil Rights & Civil LibertiesFederalism and State IssuesGun Rights & Firearm LegislationLegislative Branch


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