June 7, 2018 — Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, applauded the Delaware House Administration Committee for advancing legislation that would establish a process for temporarily prohibiting an individual who is a danger to themselves or others from possessing a firearm.
Nico Bocour, Giffords, State Legislative Director:
“This legislation will provide Delaware families with a tool to protect their loved ones by keeping guns out of their hands if they notice they’re struggling. This bill closes the lethal loophole in Delaware law that makes it difficult for families and law enforcement to temporarily prevent access to firearms for at-risk individuals. We applaud Representative David Bentz and Representative Valerie Longhurst and the Delaware House Administration Committee for advancing this lifesaving legislation and look forward to seeing the Delaware House pass this bill.”
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 and law enforcement 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.