Extreme Risk Laws

New Extreme Risk Law Toolkit

The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (Ed Fund) has been instrumental in the passage of Extreme Risk Laws — sometimes referred to as “red flag laws.” Extreme Risk Laws allow family members and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove guns from individuals demonstrating behavioral risk factors for dangerousness. Extreme Risk Laws also prevent these individuals from purchasing additional guns.

Extreme Risk Laws are now in effect in 13 states — and are being considered in several more. In response to the increased interest in these laws, the Ed Fund has joined Giffords and the Alliance for Gun Responsibility to launch a state legislative toolkit. The toolkit, which is designed to help enact and implement Extreme Risk Laws across the country, aims to reach both advocates and legislators.

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An Extreme Risk Protection Order is a court-issued civil order that empowers families and law enforcement to prevent gun tragedies by reducing access to guns for individuals at an elevated risk of endangering themselves or others. The order temporarily prohibits the purchase and possession of firearms and requires the removal of any firearms currently possessed while the order is in effect.

Which States have Extreme Risk Laws?

Only thirteen states have enacted Extreme Risk-Style Laws: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. All laws are in effect except for Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey, which go into effect on January 1, 2019, October 1, 2018, and September 1, 2019, respectively.

 

History of Extreme Risk Laws

The Extreme Risk Law is a policy tool that was developed in 2013 by the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy and is based on Connecticut’s risk warrant law. Passed in 1999, Connecticut’s risk warrant grants law enforcement the clear legal authority to temporarily remove firearms from individuals when there is probable cause to believe they are at a significant risk of harm to self or others. The Extreme Risk Law, on the other hand, allows law enforcement and family members to petition for such orders.

The first Extreme Risk Law (known as a Gun Violence Restraining Order) was enacted into law after the deadly shooting on the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in 2014. The shooter had exhibited dangerous behaviors prior to the shooting, and his parents shared their concerns with his therapist who contacted law enforcement. The police briefly interviewed him but had no legal authority to intervene. Situations like this leave family members and law enforcement with limited options. An extreme risk law provides a legal process to prevent tragedies from occurring.

Research Supporting Efficacy of Extreme Risk Laws

A recent analysis of Connecticut’s risk-warrant law by Dr. Jeffrey Swanson of Duke University, with a team of nine other researchers, adds to the evidence for risk-based firearms removal laws by demonstrating that such policies are promising and effective tools to save lives.

In the first 14 years of Connecticut’s risk-warrant law (1999-2013):
● 762 risk-warrants were issued, with increasing frequency after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting.
● Police found firearms in 99% of cases.
● Police removed an average of seven guns per subject.

And notably, the researchers estimated that for every 10-20 risk warrants issued, one life was saved.

Additional Information

Fact Sheets

Data Behind Extreme Risk Laws

Extreme Risk Laws One-Pager

Extreme Risk Laws Frequently Asked Questions 

Extreme Risk Laws vs. Domestic Violence Restraining Orders – How are they different?

Limiting Access to Lethal Means: Applying the Social Ecological Model for Firearm Suicide Prevention

Reports

Extreme Risk Protection Orders: An Opportunity to Save Lives in Washington State

Guns, Public Health, and Mental Illness: An Evidence-Based Approach for State Policy

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