July 3, 2018 — Today, Giffords, the gun safety organization founded by former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and Captain Mark Kelly, applauded the signing of H 4517, a bill in Massachusetts that would establish a process for obtaining an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) that temporarily prohibits an individual who is a danger to themselves or others from possessing a firearm.
Former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, co-founder of Giffords:
“If we’re serious about saving lives, we need to be serious about making sure families and law enforcement officials have the tools they need to prevent people at risk of harming themselves or others from accessing guns. Americans are demanding their elected leaders do something to curb our nation’s gun violence epidemic. Massachusetts legislators heard the calls from their constituents and found the courage to pass legislation that will save lives. I applaud Governor Baker, Representative Linsky, Representative Decker and the entire Massachusetts legislature for working tirelessly with gun prevention advocates to get this bill passed and for showing the rest of the country how we can work to help get guns out of hands of those experiencing a crisis.”
In July 2017, experts from Giffords traveled to Boston to speak at a press conference and testify in favor of the legislation. Following the shooting in Parkland, Florida, Giffords joined the Massachusetts Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence at the Capitol for a lobby day in support of the Extreme Risk law.
Even more limited versions of this law have been effective in other states. For instance, researchers have estimated that by temporarily removing weapons from 762 at-risk individuals, Connecticut’s law had averted up to 100 fatalities from suicide alone. Massachusetts now joins other states that have enacted these types of bills backed by Giffords. Florida, New Jersey, Vermont, and Delaware are among the states that recently enacted Extreme Risk laws.
About the Extreme Risk Protective Order
The Extreme Risk Protective 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 families 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 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 a 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.