Guns are not the only way that people end their lives or self harm, but they are the most lethal. Compared to other methods, firearms have a fatality rate of about 85%, while other methods result in death less than 5% of the time (Everytown for Gun Safety). By limiting access to firearms, we can keep guns out of the hands of people at high risk for suicide. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are one emerging way of doing that.
What are Extreme Risk Protection Orders?
ERPO’s or “Red Flag Laws” are a way for law enforcement to temporarily restrict access to guns for individuals at high risk of harming themselves or others. If family members think that someone poses a danger to themselves or others, they can alert the police and have their firearms temporarily removed.
Why are they important?
People with access to firearms who struggle with suicidal thoughts are at huge risk of death by gun suicide. In many states, there is currently no legal way to remove these guns, even if law enforcement and family members know that a person is suicidal.
Does my state have them?
These states currently have ERPO laws:
CA, CT, DE, FL, IL, IN, MA, MD, NJ, OR, RI, VT, WA.
These states have introduced ERPO laws:
AL, AZ, CO, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MI, MN, MO, NC, NY, NV, OH, PA, TN, TX, UT, VA, WI.
ERPO’s also help prevent mass shootings, and intimate partner shootings.
These laws can apply to anyone who presents a risk to themselves or to others. This means that individuals experiencing domestic violence can help protect themselves by reporting a violent partner who owns guns, and have them temporarily removed. It also means that family members who notice violent behavior or threats made by their children, siblings, etc, can report it to police and help prevent mass shootings. For example, Walt Statwicki (interviewed in the above video) wanted to have his son’s concealed carry permit revoked because he thought that he was a threat to the public, but had no means to do so (Seattle gunman had a concealed weapon permit). His son later killed 5 people at a Seattle Cafe before killing himself. ERPO laws could have helped save his son and the other victims’ lives.
Get the details:
This toolkit put together by the Alliance for Gun Responsibility, Giffords, and EFSGV is a great resource for learning more about ERPO’s.
Are you or someone you know at risk of suicide? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or use their Lifeline Online Chat. You can also connect to the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 741741.