What you need to know about extreme risk protection order laws
After the mass shooting at a Parkland high school, gun violence prevention advocates are calling increasing attention to extreme risk protection order laws (ERPO’s). Also known as “red flag” laws, ERPO’s allow a family member or law enforcement to petition a judge to have someone’s guns removed if they are perceived to pose a threat to themselves or others.
ERPO’s have gained momentum in states across the nation ever since the alleged gunman, who was long known to be mentally troubled, was able to access the assault-style rifle used to kill 17 students and staff at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
“Parkland would never have happened if Florida had an extreme risk protection order law,” said Linda Beigel Schulman at a news conference in January. Her son, Scott Beigel, was a teacher and coach at the Parkland high school who was killed during the shooting.
In addition to acting as a prevention mechanism for mass shootings, supporters of gun violence prevention say ERPO’s are among the most promising tools to reduce the nearly 40,000 suicides and homicides by firearm each year in the U.S. Nine states have passed ERPO laws over the past year, which brings the total to 14 states. Following a University of Indianapolis study published in the June 2018 issue of Psychiatric Services, here’s a look at how effective they have been in the two states that have had ERPO’s the longest: Connecticut and Indiana
Connecticut has had an ERPO law since 1999. In those 20 years,
- 762 risk-warrants were issued, with increasing frequency after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting
- Police found firearms in 99% of cases
- Police removed an average of seven guns per subject
- For every 10-20 risk warrants issued, one life was saved
- Gun-related suicide rate dropped 1.6% in the first few years after it was signed into law in 1999
- More pronounced drop of 13.7% from 2007, when Connecticut authorities started using the law more often, to 2015
In the 10 years after the law was enacted (2005-2015), the study found that:
- Gun-related suicide rate was 7.5% lower, compared to what would have been expected without the law
- Although more than 5,100 people killed themselves with a firearm in Indiana during those 10 years after the law was enacted, the law may have prevented an additional 383 suicides by gun
North Carolina has yet to pass its own ERPO law. Rep. Marcia Morey of Durham proposed an ERPO bill to North Carolina's General Assembly in 2017, but it died in the House Rules Committee. While she says she intends to propose the bill again, it must have bipartisan support to pass.