Extreme risk orders

Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) empower family members, law enforcement and other key individuals to respond on those signs and prevent a tragedy from occurring. That’s why Sandy Hook Promise supports ERPOs.

What are extreme risk Orders?

In most instances of gun violence, the individual showed signs that they were at risk of hurting themselves or others. In the aftermath of a shooting incident, we often hear stories from friends or family members about signs the shooter exhibited. That’s because there are often warning signs, which some call “red flags”, prior to these acts of violence, and knowing them can save lives. Sandy Hook Promise has evidence-based programs to teach people to Know the Signs and how to act to help prevent gun violence.

Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) 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. ERPOs are civil, not criminal, proceedings and help prevent suicide and gun-related violence while protecting an individual’s 2nd Amendment rights. Congress recently introduced a bill to help more states pass these lifesaving laws. 

How do ERPOs Work?

ERPOs 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 ERPOs, 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 ERPO hearing can be held.
  • long-term ERPO 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 ERPO, lasting for up to 1 year.

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

Are ERPOs the same as “red flag” laws?

Red flag laws are one name often given to ERPOs. 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.”

What happens after an ERPO is issued?

After an ERPO is issued, 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 ERPO. Once the ERPO is terminated, the respondent has the right to have their firearms returned and the background check system is updated to signal the end of the ERPO.

What kind of evidence is needed?

When deciding to grant an ERPO, judges can consider, among other things: recent acts or threats of violence against 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

Which States Have ERPO Laws?

As of July 2019, 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 the District of Columbia.

Do ERPOs work in preventing gun deaths?

Studies have shown that ERPO laws are effective in preventing many forms of gun violence. A recent study found that for every 10-20 ERPOs filed, at least one life is saved from suicide.3

In Connecticut and Indiana, versions of extreme risk protection 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 1-year ERPOs being issued and in four of those cases, the gun owners posed a “significant threats” 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 remove firearms in the interest of public safety.

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

Is There Support For ERPOs (AKA “red Flag”) Laws?

Yes! Multiple studies have shown that a majority of Americans support extreme risk protection laws.

A survey conducted by Johns Hopkins University in 2017 found that 80% of non-gun owners and 75% of gun owners supported extreme risk protection laws.7

A federal version of the legislation was introduced in both chambers. Read the Extreme Risk Protection Order Expansion Act (S.247 / H.R. 678)

Help Pass ERPOs
Tell Your Member of Congress to Co-sponsor the federal ERPO Bill.

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 http://efsgv.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/FINAL-ERPO-complete-091916-1.pdf

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 https://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?referer=&httpsredir=1&article=4830&context=lcp

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: https://doi.org/10.7326/M19-2162

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 https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/red-flag-law-in-maryland-led-to-148-gun-seizures-in-first-three-months/2019/01/15/cfb3676c-1904-11e9-9ebf-c5fed1b7a081_story.html

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 https://www.jhsph.edu/news/news-releases/2018/little-difference-between-gun-owners-non-owners-on-key-gun-policies-survey-finds.html