In 2018, Massachusetts enacted an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law, to authorize a person’s family members, household members, and current or former dating partners, as well as the firearm licensing authority in the jurisdiction where the person resides, to petition a court for a civil order that temporarily suspends the respondent’s access to firearms for up to one year if the judge determines that they are at risk of harming themselves or others.1
In order to obtain an ERPO, the petitioner must file a petition with a court under oath, which does the following:2
- States any relevant facts supporting the petition;
- Identifies the reasons why the petitioner believes the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others by having in the respondent’s control, ownership or possession a firearm, rifle, shotgun, machine gun, weapon or ammunition;
- Identifies the number, types and locations of any firearms, rifles, shotguns, machine guns, weapons or ammunition the petitioner believes to be in the respondent’s current control, ownership or possession;
- Identifies whether there is an abuse prevention order pursuant to chapter 209A, a harassment prevention order pursuant to chapter 258E or an order similar to an abuse prevention or harassment prevention order issued by another jurisdiction in effect against the respondent; and
- Identifies whether there is a pending lawsuit, complaint, petition or other legal action between the parties to the petition.
In most cases, the court is required to provide notice of a hearing to the respondent and hold the hearing within 10 days of receiving the ERPO petition.3
If, after the hearing, the judge concludes by a preponderance of the evidence that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others by having control, ownership or possession a firearm or ammunition, the court will issue an ERPO Order prohibiting the respondent from possessing or receiving firearms for the duration of the order.4
If the court issues an ERPO, it must also order the respondent to relinquish any licenses to carry firearms or FID card, and all firearms and ammunition that the respondent controls, owns or possesses, to the licensing authority of the municipality where the respondent resides.5 The clerk magistrate of the court will also notify the local licensing authority where the respondent resides that an ERPO has been issued, and the licensing authority must immediately suspend the respondent’s license to carry firearms or FID card and immediately notify the respondent of said suspension.6 The local licensing authority will also file receipts with the court verifying that the respondent properly relinquished his or her firearms.7
In urgent cases, a court may issue an emergency ERPO, prior to providing notice and a hearing, if the court finds reasonable cause to conclude that the respondent poses a risk of causing bodily injury to self or others by being in possession of a license to carry firearms or FID card or having in control, ownership or possession a firearm or ammunition.8 The emergency ERPO may generally only be in effect for up to 10 days, before the court holds a full hearing on whether to grant a longer ERPO.
Upon termination of the ERPO, the licensing authority holding any of the respondent’s weapons will return them to the respondent after performing a background check to ensure the respondent is legally permitted to possess firearms.9
Massachusetts makes it a crime to file a petition for an ERPO knowing the information in the petition to be materially false or with an intent to harass the respondent.10
Our experts can speak to the full spectrum of gun violence prevention issues. Have a question? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.Contact
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131R. This law defines eligible petitioners to include a person’s “family or household member, or the licensing authority of the municipality where the respondent resides, related by blood or present marriage to the respondent, or a person who shares a common dwelling with the respondent.” “Family or household member” is defined to mean a person who: (i) is or was married to the respondent; (ii) is or was residing with the respondent in the same household; (iii) is or was related by blood or marriage to the respondent; (iv) has or is having a child in common with the respondent, regardless of whether they have ever married or lived together; (v) is or has been in a substantive dating relationship with the respondent; or (vi) is or has been engaged to the respondent.” Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 121.
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131R(b).
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131S.
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131S(c).
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131S(d).
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131S(f).
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131S(g).
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131T.
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131S(i).
- Mass. Gen. Laws, ch. 140 § 131V.