October 28, 2020

Samantha Kupferman, West End Strategy Team; 202-215-9260

Report: Healthcare Providers Should Be Able to Request Guns Be Temporarily Taken Away From Those at Elevated Risk of Violence

Seven years after developing the extreme risk protection order concept, experts release report examining the law’s implementation in 19 states and the District of Columbia and make recommendations to improve the gun violence prevention policy

WASHINGTON — Drawing on lessons from across the country, a consortium of legal and public health experts organized by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence today 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 Conn. The Consortium based its new recommendations on the latest research and an examination of the 19 states and the District of Columbia which have enacted versions of the law. The orders, which if approved by a judge, allow for the temporary removal of guns when a person poses an immediate threat to themself or others, are being used in those states 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 10-20 firearm removal orders issued, one suicide was averted. We developed this set of recommendations by examining the current research, 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, said, “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.

Added Christopher Carita, a threat response unit detective with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, who contributed to the report development process, “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. 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.”

Historical Context
In 2013, the Consortium released “Guns, Public Health, and Mental Illness: An Evidence-Based Approach for State Policy” which recommended that states enact a new risk-based firearm removal policy called the gun violence restraining order, now widely known as the extreme risk protection order or ERPO (also known as extreme risk laws or red flag laws).

Today’s new recommendations build upon this earlier report and provide resources for policymakers as they move forward with passing and amending ERPO laws. At the state level, the Consortium recommends:

  1. Temporary (ex parte) ERPOs should be in effect for two to three weeks, while final orders should last one year with limited, specified exceptions.
  2. In cases where firearms belonging to someone other than the respondent are removed pursuant to an ERPO, “third party clauses” (i.e., “joint occupancy clauses”) should permit the legal owner to petition for return of their firearms. It should be unlawful for any legal firearms owner to knowingly, recklessly, or negligently allow an individual known to be under an ERPO to access their firearms.
  3. ERPOs, including ex parte orders, should be applicable to minors, regardless of legal firearm ownership, if the minor has access to a firearm or would otherwise become eligible to purchase a firearm while the order is in effect.
  4. Persons eligible to petition for ERPOs should include: 1) law enforcement officers; 2) family members, household members, and intimate partners; and 3) licensed healthcare providers.
  5. States should require a state-designated entity to enter ERPO order information into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and/or, depending on the state, the state background check database, such that ERPO respondents are ineligible to purchase firearms.
  6. States should assure that ERPO case data are entered into a centralized state database and should facilitate access to these data for research and policy purposes.

Though ERPOs are a state-level policy, there are policies the federal government can enact to improve their effectiveness. At the federal level, the Consortium recommends:

  1. Federal grant funding should be available to states to support at least the following six implementation activities:
    1. building infrastructure to support implementation;
    2. training law enforcement, judges, and court clerks;
    3. educating allied professionals and diverse community stakeholders;
      enhancing social services;
    4. supporting research to inform policy and practice regarding ERPO implementation;
    5. improving states’ reporting of extreme risk protection order records to the national background check system.
  2. Congress should appropriate additional funding for NICS to take the necessary action to assure that ERPOs effectively serve as firearm prohibitors at the point of firearm purchases.

The full report, “Extreme Risk Protection Orders: New Recommendations for Policy and Implementation,” is available online at the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence’s website.

The Joyce Foundation supports the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy and provided core support for this report.

About the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy

The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy (Consortium) comprises experts committed to advancing evidence-based gun violence prevention policies. The group includes the nation’s leading researchers and academics with expertise at the intersections of gun violence prevention and public health, law, behavioral health, medicine, criminology, and related fields.

Following the horrific school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, convened the Consortium in March 2013 to identify areas of consensus regarding risk factors for future violence, discuss existing research evidence on the issue, and foster collaboration on the development of new research that could lead to new practices and policies. Though they are separate entities, the Consortium is organized and staffed by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence.

Best known for its development of the extreme risk protection order policy, or ERPO, the Consortium convenes regularly to develop evidence-based gun violence prevention policies. In turn, policymakers have come to rely upon the Consortium’s recommendations to craft legislation and executive action and to inform implementation efforts which continue to shape the policy landscape of the gun violence prevention movement.