March 14, 2018 — Today, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, called out the National Rifle Association (NRA) for reversing their position on Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs). In a new video, the NRA offers support for ERPO laws, which temporarily prevent access to firearms for an individual who is a danger to themselves or others.
This is a stark reversal. Previously, the NRA had actively lobbied against such laws in Washington and Oregon. For example, in Washington State the NRA urged voters to reject a ERPO ballot measure, claiming it would hurt the rights of gun owners and called “the mere insinuation that gun ownership makes you a danger to yourself or others… offensive and insulting.”
Peter Ambler, Giffords Executive Director:
“With millions of kids and Americans taking to the streets, growing levels of public support for safer gun laws, and widespread condemnation of their proposals to arm teachers, the NRA has reversed course and is now supporting one of our top policy priorities, Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The reversal is a major step forward for every American who’ve spoken out against our gun violence crisis and the influence of the gun lobby – and also an acknowledgement from the NRA that laws to keep guns out of the hand of dangerous people are essential to public safety.”
While the NRA is now claiming to support ERPO laws, they have also called for them to include a provision that would mandate “treatment” without any clarity as to what that would entail. ERPO laws are effective because they keep guns out of the hands of those who are a danger to themselves or others by looking at evidence of dangerous, violent, and risky behaviors. The NRA’s call for mandatory ‘treatment’ is an ineffective way to prevent at-risk individuals from committing violence.
Giffords is actively working with community leaders and lawmakers in states across the country to pass ERPO laws, including New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Delaware, Vermont, Michigan, and North Carolina.
According to fatal injury data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, two-thirds of homicides are committed with firearms.
About the Extreme Risk Protective 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. 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 law 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.
ERPO laws are based on the long-standing domestic violence protection orders (in place in all 50 states) and involve 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.
An 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 lives saved. California enacted this life-saving law in 2014, Washington voters overwhelmingly passed it in November 2016, and Oregon enacted it in 2017. Connecticut and Indiana have similar versions that allow law enforcement officers to intervene when people are in crisis and have easy access to guns, a policy that Florida adopted in 2018. 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, or approximately one life saved for every 10-20 risk warrants issued.
ERPO laws are 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, and nine out of 10 people who survive a suicide attempt do not die by suicide at a later in life. These facts demonstrate that ERPOs, which can prevent suicidal individuals from accessing guns during a crisis, can and will save lives.