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With Congress potentially set to approve "red flag" gun law, how often have such laws been used in Illinois?

Illinois "red flag" laws rarely used outside DuPage County
Illinois "red flag" laws rarely used outside DuPage County 02:22

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With rare bi-partisan support in Congress, it appears lawmakers are days away from potentially passing tougher federal gun laws. That includes a federal "red flag" law, which would empower courts to take guns away from potentially dangerous people.

Illinois already has a "red flag" law, but it's rarely used, except in DuPage County. CBS 2's Chris Tye dug in to find out why the western suburbs are using it more than anywhere else in the state.

It took shootings at a Buffalo grocery store and Uvalde, Texas, elementary school to get national momentum on "red flag" laws.

Illinois has had them on the books for more than two years, but experts say residents who may need them don't know about them.

"What the law does is it allows a timeout," said DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin.

He explained that the law is for loved ones of gun-owning family members showing violent tendencies to have those weapons temporarily removed.

"A threat to shoot someone, a threat to hurt someone; something that's out of the ordinary that causes a concern and a vicitm to say, 'I am afraid,'" Berlin said.

Fearful loved ones have gotten judges to step in 115 times over the last two years to issue firearm restraining orders in Illinois; 72 of them in DuPage County. That's 62% of all firearm restraining orders statewide.

So, what's going on in DuPage?

Berlin said it's all about police training; so when they are called to domestic violence cases, they can let victims know about the "red flag" law.

"I believe, in this county, they are trained extremely well; and we spend a lot of time in this office training our police officers on what the law is," Berlin said.

Illinois State Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback (D-Skokie) sponsored legislation that just this month puts $1 million toward informing and educating nervous loved ones.

"I was concerned about the underutilization of this law, because a lack of awareness. The general public did not know we passed this law," she said. "It's estimated that for every 10 to 20 orders that are issued, one life is saved."

As Congress considers passing a nationalized version, what would that mean for Illinois? It would likely mean more funding to increase awareness and education to get more counties in Illinois more in line with DuPage.

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