Giffords Applauds New York Leaders for Introducing Bill to Remove Guns from Dangerous Situations

January 17, 2018 — Today, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, applauded New York State Senators Brian Kavanagh and Brad Hoylman along with Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon for introducing a bill that would establish a process for temporarily prohibiting an individual who is a danger to themselves or others from possessing a firearm.

“This legislation is an example of New York’s commitment to saving lives from gun violence,” said Nico Bocour, State Legislative Director of Giffords. “If it becomes law, police officers and families will have a critical tool to help prevent individuals experiencing a mental health crisis from having easy access to a gun. New York now has an opportunity to join a growing list of states, like Oregon and California, that have passed this life-saving measure. We applaud Senators Brian Kavanagh and Brad Hoylman along with Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon for building the effort to seek passage of this critical bill that will save lives from gun violence.”  

Five years ago, New York enacted the NY SAFE Act, making our gun violence prevention laws among the strongest in the nation. But even though we have the 48th lowest rate of gun deaths in the country, gun violence is still hurting New Yorkers — and we have a responsibility to act,” said Senator Kavanagh, co-prime sponsor of S7133 and Chair of American State Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention and the affiliated New York Legislators for Gun Violence Prevention. “New Yorkers consistently and broadly support stronger laws, and Extreme Risk Protection Orders are a commonsense reform that could make a real difference. I look forward to working with my colleagues in government and this extraordinary coalition to pass ERPO legislation this year.”

“Over 30,000 Americans lose their lives to gun violence each year. More than 500 have been killed in just the first 16 days of 2018,” said State Senator Brad Hoylman, Co-Prime Sponsor of S7133. “By creating procedures to identify high-risk individuals and prevent them from accessing deadly weapons, Extreme Risk Protection Orders represent a common sense approach to avert these needless tragedies. Thoughts and prayers are not enough anymore. Working with Senator Kavanagh, Assemblymember Simon and this brave new coalition including New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety, and Prosecutors Against Gun Violence I’m confident we will pass ERPO this session and help end the cycle of gun violence.”

“When a person exhibits warning signs that they pose a risk of serious harm to themselves or others, family members often observe these signs firsthand,” said Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon, sponsor of A8976. “But in New York, even if these concerns are reported, law enforcement has no authority to act and help prevent tragedies including interpersonal gun violence or suicide involving a gun.  A temporary Extreme Risk Order of Protection would restrict a person’s access to firearms if they pose a serious risk, while providing due process protections and the right to appeal.  The court could also refer the person in crisis for evaluation to ensure they get the help they need. In short, this bill can help prevent gun violence and save lives.  I am privileged to sponsor this bill in the Assembly and look forward to working with Senators Kavanagh and Hoylman and this broad coalition of advocates to ensure its passage.”

New York now joins other states that have introduced ERPO bills backed by Giffords. Last year, Oregon’s Governor signed Senate Bill 719 into law, creating a process for obtaining an ERPO. Leading up the signing, members of the Giffords Oregon Coalition testified on behalf of the bill and urged Oregon leaders to pass it.

About the Extreme Risk Protection Order

The Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is a civil court order issued by a judge upon consideration of evidence provided by a family member or law enforcement officer that temporarily prohibits a person in crisis from possessing or purchasing firearms or ammunition. A common thread in many shootings is that family members of the shooters had noticed their loved ones engaging in dangerous behaviors and were concerned about their risk of harming themselves or others – even before any violence occurred.

  • 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 or 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 life-saving 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 easy access to guns. In the first 14 years of the implementation of Connecticut’s law, it is estimated that between 38-76 lives were saved as a result of risk-warrants. 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.

Advocates Voice Support for New York ERPO Bill

  • Rebecca Fischer, Executive Director of New Yorkers Against Gun Violence: “New York State has one of the lowest gun death and injury rates in the country because our state’s leadership has made it a priority to enact strong, sensible gun violence prevention laws. However, gaps in our laws continue to leave New Yorkers vulnerable to senseless gun-related tragedies. We stand with a state-wide coalition of lawmakers, advocates, and others to support the passage of Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation, a law that will prevent suicide, domestic violence, mass shootings, and other interpersonal gun violence.  The Extreme Risk Protection Order establishes a civil court process that empowers family and law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals who are in serious crisis and a danger to themselves and others.  Comparable laws have already been passed in multiple other states and the data shows that this legal mechanism is effective at reducing gun violence rates. Now is the time for New York to step forward and enact ERPO as well to save lives and protect New York’s families and communities.”
  • Richard M. Aborn, President, Citizens Crime Commission of New York City: “New York continues to achieve record lows in gun violence through a combination of smart gun control laws, effective policing and wide-ranging support for prevention programming. We must continue this tradition by equipping family members and law enforcement with a tool to quickly remove guns from individuals in crisis who are displaying dangerous signs of impending violent acts. The Extreme Risk Protection Order accomplishes this goal. There are far too many examples of individuals exhibiting early warning signs of violence prior to committing mass shootings, police ambushes, domestic violence, workplace shootings, suicides or other gun violence tragedies. Despite knowledge of violent threats, neither family members nor law enforcement had the power to intervene before the shootings. We must give law enforcement and families that power; the power to stop tragedies before they occur.”
  • Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence: “The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence is proud to join with State Senator Brian Kavanagh and the New York State ERPO Coalition in supporting this life-saving legislation. Extreme Risk Protection Orders represent a critical piece of the reforms needed to stem the epidemic of gun violence in America. Brady believes in a comprehensive approach to addressing gun violence that includes ERPO legislation, ensuring all gun sales are subject to Brady background checks and reforming our National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”
  • Tricia Pleu, a volunteer with the New York chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America: “This Red Flag law is exactly the type of gun sense legislation we need in New York. This crucial bill would create an Extreme Risk Protection Order that can temporarily restrict a person’s access to guns when warning signs indicate that they’re likely to use them to harm themselves or others. Red Flag laws empower loved ones and law enforcement to take immediate legal action to protect public safety if they notice dangerous behaviors  by someone in their community who may be in crisis. It can help  prevent domestic violence, mass shootings, suicides and other instances of gun violence. We applaud Senators Brian Kavanagh and Brad Hoylman along with Assemblymember Jo Anne Simon for their leadership on this issue. We urge our lawmakers to follow the examples of other states such as California, Connecticut and Indiana and pass this life-saving legislation.”
  • Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. and Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, co-founders of Prosecutors Against Gun Violence, said: “Extreme Risk Protective Orders can save lives by preventing an act of violence before a shot is ever fired. When family members or law enforcement identify a person at great risk to themselves or others, removing guns from the equation is just common sense.  We strongly urge New York lawmakers to enact the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.”
  • Mary Beth Baxter, NYAGV Long Island Coordinator and Board member: “In 2017, there were twice as many suicides-by-gun as there were firearm-related homicides in Suffolk County. The ERPO bill can help protect individuals who are severely depressed and suicidal in our Long Island community, including some active members of the military and veterans who are suffering from trauma and may be in crisis. Family who may be concerned about the privacy of their loved ones may be more likely to use the ERPO process because the legislation would seal ERPO orders when they expire. This bill provides for a fair and effective process to protect our loved ones from senseless death and injury.”
  • Paul McQuillen, Upstate Coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence: “As a Buffalo-area resident, I am grateful that our state’s leadership is determined to keep guns from the hands of those who are dangerous to others or themselves. There are far too many instances of violence in the home against women and children in our upstate cities and towns.  This legislation would give loved ones and law enforcement an effective tool through the courts to protect themselves and members of our communities.”
  • WNY Coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence, Lieutenant Gary Pudup, MCSO, Ret.: “During my career as a police officer, I saw countless cases of friends and family powerless to help vulnerable loved ones through periods of personal crisis. The result has been a trail of senseless and regrettable tragedies. Helping those through a time when they are not making safe decisions is critical to reducing suicide and violence toward women. This simple and reasonable bill will give friends and family here in Rochester and across New York a long-needed tool to prevent the unnecessary loss of life.”
  • Sarah Kozloff, Dutchess County Coordinator for New Yorkers Against Gun Violence: “The Hudson Valley, like other areas of New York, faces a rising suicide rate and too many heart-breaking gun deaths from domestic violence. By temporarily removing guns from a household, Extreme Risk Protection Orders have the potential both to avert tragedies and to prompt people under great stress to get the help they need.”