Red flag law could have saved family’s lives

Thank you for being one of our most loyal readers. Please consider supporting community journalism by subscribing.


The murder-suicide of six members of a family on March 15, in Moncure could have been prevented by a red flag law in North Carolina.

Larry Ray, age 66, killed his wife Jeannie Ray, age 67, in their home. Before turning the gun on himself, he killed Jeannie Ray’s niece, Nicole Sanderford, 39, and her husband Paul Sanderford, 41, who lived across the road, Jeannie’s mother Helen Mason, age 93, who also lived across the road, and Ellis Mansfield, 73, with his wife Lisa Mansfield, 54, who were having their weekly Sunday dinner with Mrs. Mason.

Over the past decade, Chatham County Emergency Services logged more than 50 law enforcement and medical calls from the homes of the victims. Over the last 6 months, several 911 calls were made that referenced the mental instability of Larry Ray, and just this past February, his wife Jeannie Ray called to file a “psychiatric/ abnormal behavior/ suicide attempt” complaint.

Just minutes before the massacre, Ray’s sister who lives in another county called 911 describing her brother as crazy and threatening gun violence against family members.

This is exactly the kind of situation red flag laws, also called extreme risk laws, are designed to address. The law allows members of a family to petition the court for the temporary removal of firearms from a person who poses a danger to others or himself.

“Following due process in court, if it is found that a person poses a serious risk of injuring themselves or others with a firearm, that person is temporarily prohibited from purchasing and possessing guns; guns they already own are held by law enforcement or another authorized party while the order is in effect.”

Makes sense, doesn’t it? If a score of complaints are lodged from several people regarding the mental instability of a person who owns guns, and the courts find sufficient evidence of this instability, firearms should be confiscated temporarily.

Larry Ray was not a criminal. He was a mentally ill man who owned several guns and displayed violent behavior.

Despite broad bipartisan voter support for these common-sense gun regulations, grassroots gun organizations and Republican candidates for office like Mick Rankin oppose them.

The majority who support gun regulation must vote our conscience this November. We can no longer allow casual mass murder to define us as a country.

Deborah A. Baro