July 17, 2017 — Tomorrow, the Massachusetts Joint Committee on the Judiciary will hold a hearing on a new proposal, H. 3081, which creates a process for obtaining an Extreme Risk Protection Order that prohibits a person who is in danger of hurting themselves or others from possessing a firearm. Two experts from Americans for Responsible Solutions, the gun violence prevention organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Navy combat veteran and retired NASA astronaut Captain Mark Kelly, and its partner organization the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, will testify in favor of the legislation.
“One year ago tomorrow, my father purchased the gun that he would eventually use to take his own life. While it’s too late to save my father’s life, this proposal may someday save the life of someone you know,” said Jenna Yuille, Engagement Manager for Americans for Responsible Solutions, survivor of gun violence. “I’m honored to testify in support of this legislation and urge Massachusetts’ elected leaders to help give families the tools they need to prevent gun tragedies and save lives.”
“Laws similar to the Extreme Risk Protection Order being proposed in Massachusetts have been able to save lives in other states. With this responsible legislation, Massachusetts has a real opportunity to help individuals in crisis who are at an elevated risk of injuring themselves or others and remove guns from dangerous situations,” said Allison Anderman, Managing Attorney, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Americans for Responsible Solutions Foundation. “I look forward to testifying in support of this lifesaving bill that has the potential to prevent many tragedies.”
In advance of tomorrow’s hearing on the bill, Americans for Responsible Solutions released a new factsheet detailing how Extreme Risk Protect Orders can help save lives by removing guns from dangerous situations.
An ERPO creates a mechanism for family and household members to temporarily prevent access to guns by individuals who pose an elevated risk of endangering themselves or others. This law can save lives while ensuring critical legal protections for respondents, just as it has in states that have already taken this responsible step.
The ERPO is based on the long-standing domestic violence protection orders (in place in all 50 states) and involves both a court hearing and clearly defined due process protections. Qualifying petitioners, such as family and household members, licensed mental health workers, and law enforcement officers, would be able to petition the civil court in their jurisdiction for an ERPO based on evidence they present through a written application and at a hearing before a judge.
The ERPO gives individuals an opportunity to present evidence to show they are not a danger to themselves or others. If a court issues an ERPO, respondents would still be able to petition once for termination of the order and be eligible to have their firearms and ammunition returned upon expiration of the order.
States with ERPO laws have seen positive results and are saving lives. California enacted this lifesaving law in 2014, and Washington voters overwhelmingly passed it in November 2016. Connecticut and Indiana have similar versions that allow law enforcement officers to intervene when people are in crisis and have access to guns. In the first 14 years of the implementation of Connecticut’s law, it is estimated that the law saved between 38-76 lives. In addition, nearly one-third of respondents received critical mental health and substance abuse treatment as a result of the intervention.
The ERPO is a particularly important tool to help prevent suicides. Those in a suicidal crisis are much more likely to survive if they do not have easy access to firearms for the duration of the crisis. Research shows that people are more likely to die by suicide if they have easy access to firearms. Eighty-five percent of suicide attempts involving firearms are fatal. Nine out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt do not die by suicide at a later date. These facts demonstrate that the ERPO, which can prevent suicidal individuals from accessing guns during a crisis, will likely save lives.
Speak with an Expert: For additional information, or to be connected to a gun violence prevention expert who will be testifying tomorrow, contact Sean Simons at firstname.lastname@example.org