New Report on ERPO Policy and Implementation

November 20, 2020

On October 28, a consortium of legal and public health experts organized by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence released a detailed set of recommendations to improve and enhance the effectiveness of the state-based gun violence prevention policy known as extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs).

The report, “Extreme Risk Protection Orders: New Recommendations for Policy and Implementation,” was produced by the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy, which developed the original ERPO concept in 2013 in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. To accompany the report release, the Ed Fund hosted an online conversation, during which panelists discussed the report’s key findings and new recommendations for policy and implementation and answered questions from the virtual audience. (View the recording of the online conversation.)

The Consortium based its new recommendations on the latest research and an examination of the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted versions of the law. The orders, which allow for the temporary removal of guns when a person poses an immediate threat of self-harm or harm to others, have shown promise as a tool to help prevent suicides, mass shootings, and other types of interpersonal gun violence.

“Since the Consortium first developed the original extreme risk protection order concept in 2013, we have successfully advocated for the enactment of such life-saving legislation in states across the country,” said Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy Managing Director Vicka Chaplin. “Research estimates that for every 10 to 20 firearm removal orders issued, 1 suicide was averted. We developed this set of recommendations by examining the current research and existing laws, and consulting with the people on the ground implementing these laws. We are committed to continually learning and improving our policy recommendations so they can save more lives.”

Extreme risk protection orders allow law enforcement, and in some states family and household members, among others, to petition a court for a civil order to temporarily remove firearms from, and prevent the purchase of additional firearms by, individuals who are at risk of harming themselves and/or others. Among the 19 states and the District of Columbia that have enacted extreme risk protection order laws, variation in implementation reflects states’ diverse needs and priorities.

Paul S. Appelbaum, MD, a steering committee member of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy and professor of psychiatry at Columbia University, says, “Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) are a demonstrably effective mechanism for reducing deaths associated with firearms. An important part of this new set of recommendations is the addition of clinicians to the groups who can petition for an ERPO. When a clinician is aware that a patient is suicidal and has a gun, or has plans to hurt someone else, ERPOs provide an important means of getting firearms out of that person’s hands—and saving lives.”

The report’s recommendations include expanding those who can request ERPOs to include licensed healthcare providers, clarifying that ERPOs should apply to minors who may have access to guns or would otherwise be legally allowed to purchase a gun, ensuring the National Instant Criminal Background Check System is notified of ERPOs, and creating standards around reporting requirements and collection of data. The report also details how the federal government can support implementation of state-based ERPO laws.

“In a number of communities around the country, life-saving ERPO policies are already being used when people are behaving dangerously and at risk of committing violence," says Christopher Carita, a threat response unit detective with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department and a Bloomberg Fellow; he contributed to the report development process. "By working with family members, partners, and clinicians to implement these laws fairly and with compassion, law enforcement is using ERPOs to prevent violence without resorting to criminal charges that can have long-term negative implications for the individuals involved. In cases where criminal charges are necessary, ERPO serves as a valuable tool in mitigating gun violence by creating a new avenue for the removal of firearms from extremely dangerous individuals. We need greater uptake of these laws across the country. Federal dollars could go a long way to support state and local implementation of ERPO laws.”

Read the report.

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