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National Issue

Temporary Transfer of Firearms

Temporary Transfer Orders or Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), sometimes referred to as “red flag laws”, can save lives. They empower family members, law enforcement, and other key individuals to respond to warning signs of potential violence or suicide. These orders are helping tools that temporarily separate someone who may be in crisis from their firearms.

What Are Temporary Transfer Orders?

In the aftermath of a shooting incident or suicide, we often hear stories from friends or family members about warning signs that preceded the violent act. Temporary Transfer Orders, ERPOs and certain red flag laws empower family members and law enforcement to prevent gun violence and gun-related suicides by petitioning a court to temporarily separate an at-risk individual from firearms.

These are civil, not criminal, proceedings. They help prevent suicide and gun-related violence while protecting an individual’s Second Amendment rights.

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How Do Temporary Transfer Orders Work?

Temporary Transfer Orders (i.e., ERPOs or red flag laws) can be issued in two different ways to prevent violence:

  • An Ex Parte ERPO is an emergency order that can be granted when the threat of harm is imminent. For these orders, the person filing the petition (the petitioner) must include detailed allegations that the respondent poses a threat in the near future. These orders are processed quickly, usually the day the petition is filed, and last for a short period of time until a final hearing can be held.
  • A long-term order is issued after a hearing, in which the respondent can present evidence in their defense. After a petitioner files, the court has 14 days to hold a hearing. If the judge finds substantial evidence that the respondent poses a significant danger to themselves or others, they will issue a final Temporary Transfer or ERPO, lasting for up to one year.

Recent research found that for every 10 to 20 orders filed, at least one life is saved from suicide.1

“Red flag laws” are one name often given to ERPOs, which is another term for Temporary Transfer Orders. Sandy Hook Promise avoids the term “red flag” because we believe all caution must be taken to ensure that these laws are not used to further perpetuate stigma or marginalize any person or community. The intent of these laws is to reduce risk and protect people in crisis from harming themselves or others. Therefore, members of the gun violence prevention movement call these laws “extreme risk laws” or “extreme risk protection orders,” instead of “red flag laws.” 

Using the term Temporary Transfer Orders underscores that these laws are helping tools to protect schools, homes, and communities from those who may be in crisis and at risk of harming themselves or others — while also protecting an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights.

Law enforcement removes any existing firearms from the respondent’s possession and updates the background check system to temporarily prohibit purchases for the duration of the Temporary Transfer Order. Once the order is terminated, the respondent has the right to have their firearms returned and the background check system is updated. 

When deciding to grant Temporary Transfer Order, judges can consider, among other things: recent acts or threats of violence toward self or others, patterns of violence over the past year, prior convictions of domestic violence, prior unlawful or reckless use of a firearm, and previous violations of protection orders or no contact orders.2

As of July 2019, Temporary Transfer Orders (ERPOs) or substantially similar legislation have been passed in 19 states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington) as well as Washington, DC.

Studies have shown that Temporary Transfer Orders (ERPO) laws are effective in preventing many forms of gun violence. A recent study found that for every 10 to 20 orders filed, at least one life is saved from suicide.3

In Connecticut and Indiana, versions of these laws have been shown to reduce firearm suicide rates by 14% and 7.5%, respectively.4

Between 2016-2018, California saw 21 cases in which the use of an ERPO helped prevent a mass shooting.5

In Maryland, 302 ERPO petitions were filed in the first three months after an ERPO law was put into effect in October of 2018. Just under half of those cases (148) resulted in a 1-year order being issued, and in four of those cases, the gun owners posed a “significant threat” to schools.6

Sandy Hook Promise supports legislation that enables families to alert law enforcement to potentially dangerous situations and gives law enforcement the tools and authority they need to temporarily remove firearms in the interest of public safety.

Congress can take action at the federal level to incentivize state passage of these life-saving laws and to provide funding to ensure these laws are implemented effectively.

Yes! Multiple studies have shown that a majority of Americans support the temporary transfer of firearms away from those who are deemed to be in crisis.

A survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University in 2017 found that 80% of non-gun owners and 75% of gun owners supported Temporary Transfer / Extreme Risk Protection laws.7A federal version of the legislation was introduced in both chambers. Read the Extreme Risk Protection Order Expansion Act (S.247 / H.R.678) for more information.

Related Issues

National Issue

Expanded Background Checks are one of the most proven policies to prevent gun violence. When firearms are sold without background checks, our schools, communities, and public places are less safe.

  1. Duke University School of Law

  2. The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence. (2016, September). Extreme Risk Protection Orders: An Opportunity to Save Lives in Washington. Retrieved from

  3. Swanson, J. W., et al. (2017). Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut’s Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does It Prevent Suicides? Law and Contemporary Problems, Duke University School of Law, 80, pp. 179-208. Retrieved from

  4. Kivisto, AJ and Phalen, PL. (2018). Effects of Risk-based Seizure Laws in Connecticut and Indiana on Suicide Rates, 1981-2015. Psychiatric Services, 69(8), pp. 855-862.

  5. Wintemute GJ, Pear VA, Schleimer JP, et al. Extreme Risk Protection Orders Intended to Prevent Mass Shootings: A Case Series. Ann Intern Med. 2019;171:655–658. [Epub ahead of print 20 August 2019]. doi:

  6. Wiggins, O. (2019, January 15). Red-flag law in Maryland led to gun seizures from 148 people in first three months. Washington Post. Retrieved from

  7. Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (2018). Little Difference Between Gun Owners, Non-Owners on Key Policies, Survey Finds [Press release]. Retrieved from