In a number of counties around the country, sheriffs are going rogue by declaring that they’ll refuse to enforce gun safety laws like extreme risk protection orders. As our recent analysis pointed out, many of these so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” counties have suicide rates higher than the state average. By refusing to enforce these lifesaving laws passed by democratically elected lawmakers, these sheriffs are further jeopardizing vulnerable residents. They are also on the wrong side of public opinion.
These laws have strong bipartisan support. Even Republicans who have with a history of backing weaker gun laws, like Senate Judiciary Chairman Lindsey Graham, have expressed their willingness to consider proposal incentivizing states to pass these laws. In March, Senator Graham led a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on extreme risk protection orders, following a spate of suicides among survivors of the Parkland and Newtown shootings. In the hearing, Senator Graham reiterated that extreme risk protection orders are fully compatible with Second Amendment rights. “There are a lot of people [who] may be worried, ‘Is the government going to come take your guns?’ And the answer is, ‘No,'” Senator Graham said in his opening remarks.
Many law enforcement officials, including the members of the Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition, are pointing out the important role extreme risk protection orders can play in preventing violence, and are calling on our elected officials to take action. The Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition sent the below letter to congressional leaders earlier this week, urging them to pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act (H.R. 1236/S. 506) which would assist and incentivize states to pass and enact extreme risk laws through federal grant funding. Time will tell if members like Senator Graham will listen to the voices of law enforcement.
Read the Letter from the Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition:
Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, and Leader McCarthy,
As law enforcement officers, we spend much of our time handling the aftermath of crimes. This work is particularly difficult when it involves gun violence. Shootings are devastating events, but we know there are ways to prevent many of them from happening in the first place. One such way is through the use of extreme risk protection orders, a powerful tool that helps to prevent gun violence by allowing law enforcement or family members to petition a court to temporarily remove a dangerous person’s access to firearms. The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act (H.R. 1236/S. 506) would help states pass extreme risk laws across the country and give more law enforcement officers access to this lifesaving tool.
We have seen the tragic consequences of law enforcement having no means to act on the
warning signs too many times. In Parkland, multiple community members expressed concerns about the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter’s behavior but had no legal options to separate him from his firearms before he committed a horrendous act of violence. At a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, the Palm Beach County Sheriff testified that an extreme risk law “absolutely” could have prevented the massacre.
While ERPOs can help prevent mass shootings, they are particularly effective in preventing gun suicides, which account for 60% of gun deaths and have been rising in recent years. Responding to suicidal individuals is becoming a more frequent and difficult aspect of our work. Though guns are used in just 5% of suicide attempts, they are responsible for 50% of all suicide deaths. It is clear that firearms are the most lethal means for suicide commonly available. Temporarily reducing access to guns for a person in crisis significantly increases the likelihood of surviving a suicide attempt, and fortunately extreme risk protection orders can disarm people who intend to take their own lives.
Extreme risk laws uphold public safety while protecting due process. These laws are modeled on states’ domestic violence protection order procedures, which have been utilized in every state across the country for decades and have withstood multiple legal challenges. And they are effective as well: studies in Connecticut and in Indiana have proven that for every 10 to 20 extreme risk protection orders issued, one life was saved. In the past year alone, extreme risk laws helped disarm a student in Vermont who kept a “journal of an active shooter” and the brother of the Parkland gunman who showed signs of violence after the shooting.
States are moving quickly to pass these laws. Fifteen states––California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington––and the District of Columbia now have some form of extreme risk law. More than 20 additional states introduced extreme risk bills in their state legislature this year. However, in order for these laws to be as effective as possible, states need help. Congress should ensure that states have access to federal funding and support in order to successfully implement their extreme risk laws.
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act (H.R. 1236/S. 506) would assist and incentivize states to pass and enact extreme risk laws through federal grant funding. The grants provided by this legislation would offer much-needed help in implementing extreme risk laws by funding the development of materials and training for key stakeholders, improving firearms storage facilities and record keeping, and strategically evaluating the efficacy of these laws.
Gun deaths have been steadily rising in this country over the past decade, in 2017 reaching the highest number in nearly 40 years. Although gun violence won’t be stopped by a single policy, extreme risk laws provide law enforcement with a unique opportunity to intervene before tragedy strikes. We urge you to help states in their efforts to prevent gun violence and pass the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act as soon as possible.
The Giffords Law Enforcement Coalition
Chief Andrew Bidou – Vallejo Police Department (CA)
Ret. Robert Champagne – Peabody Police Department (MA)
Chief Louis Dekmar – LaGrange Police Department (GA)
Chief Ret. Ivan Fossen – Glenwood Police Department (MN)
Chief Michael Gahagan – Caribou Police Department (ME)
Chief Jeffery Hadley – Chatham County Police Department (GA)
B. Todd Jones – Former Director of Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)
Chief Scott Knight – Chaska Police Department (MN)
Chief Ret. Ron Louie – Hillsboro Police Department (OR)
Chief Chris Magnus – Tucson Police Department (AZ)
Commissioner Ret. Charles Ramsey – Philadelphia Police Department (PA)
Sheriff Mike Reese – Multnomah County Sheriff’s Office (OR)
Chief Paul Schnell – Inver Grove Heights Police Department (MN)
Chief Henry Stawinski – Prince George’s County Police Department (MD)
- Background: Extreme Risk Protection Orders
- Report: How “Second Amendment Sanctuaries” Are Threatening Lifesaving Gun Laws
- Blog: Gun Laws Are Constitutional and Save Lives. Law Enforcement Officials Must Enforce Them.
- Trendwatch: Extremist Sheriffs Leading Efforts to Protect Guns from Laws