EXTREME RISK PROTECTION ORDERS

THE PROBLEM

Our government has not taken enough action to keep lethal weapons out of the hands of people who are at demonstrated risk of harming themselves or others:

  • Over 2/3 of U.S. gun deaths each year are suicides – more than 65 every day;
  • Over 4.5 million American women alive today have been threatened by an abuser with a firearm;
  • Students are afraid to be in school due to the ever-present threat of a mass shooting.

THE POLICY

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO, also known as “red flag laws”) are a legal tool that can be used to temporarily prevent individuals from accessing firearms if they are at heightened risk of harming themselves or others. Less than 1/2 of U.S. states have them in place, eight of which passed shortly after the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida.

Without ERPOs, family members and loved ones – often the first to notice warning signs that someone is at risk of harming themselves or others – are left with options that may have serious repercussions for the individual down the line, such as arrest or forced institutionalization.

HOW THEY WORK:

  • While specifics may vary from state to state, a court has to determine that there is reasonable cause to believe that the individual is at significant risk of hurting themselves or others.
  • If reasonable cause is determined, the protection order is granted to temporarily transfer their firearm(s) and prevent them from purchasing new firearms for the duration of the order.
  • Extreme Risk Protection Orders generally last a maximum of one year, often shorter. When an ERPO expires, the person may regain access to their firearms, so long as they are able to pass a background check and are not otherwise prohibited from purchasing or possessing firearms.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S RECOMMENDATION:

  • States should take action to prevent access to firearms for individuals who present a recognizable risk of hurting themselves or others, including through establishing ERPOs.
  • It is vital that the government supports family members and law enforcement to intervene in situations where lives are on the line. These types of temporary measures could have a significant impact on reducing gun deaths in the U.S.

60%

Firearm deaths in the U.S. caused by suicide in 2017

85%

Suicide attempts using a firearm that end in death–far higher than other means

CHECK

Does your state have an ERPO?

Remember: Correlations shouldn’t be drawn between gun violence and mental health. Persons with mental health conditions are not more likely to commit gun violence. In fact, research shows that less than 5% of lethal shootings between 2001 – 2010 were carried out by people with a diagnosed mental illness.

THE HUMAN RIGHTS FRAMEWORK