So many guns were being seized by the New York State Police, several evidence custodians told a union official, that they were running out of space to store them.

The guns were tagged and arranged neatly, lined up on shelves or in cabinets. “People were saying, ‘Where the heck are we going to put all this?’” recalled Timothy Dymond, the president of the New York State Police Investigators Association.

The packed evidence rooms were a direct result of one of the most ambitious experiments ever attempted with red-flag laws, a relatively new tool that states are deploying to combat gun violence. Such laws are used to prevent people at risk of harming themselves or others from possessing or buying firearms.

In New York, the results of the experiment have been dramatic. Last year, the state’s civil court judges approved more than 4,300 final orders under the law, up from 222 in 2021. At least 1,800 guns were removed by the state police and local law enforcement agencies in 2023.

New York’s unique approach was driven by the nation’s rising gun deaths. After the massacre at a Buffalo supermarket in 2022, New York strengthened its red-flag law in a manner unlike any other state, making it a requirement rather than an option for law enforcement authorities to pursue such orders.

Dr. April Zeoli speaks with the Washington Post about the impact of ERPOs and the importance of effective implementation