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How Do Extreme Risk (Red Flag) Laws Prevent Gun Violence?
In the aftermath of a shooting incident, we often hear stories from friends or family members about “red flags” the shooter exhibited. That’s because there are often warning signs, red flags, prior to these acts of violence, and knowing them can save lives. Sandy Hook Promise has evidence-based programs to teach people to Know the Signs and how to act to help prevent gun violence.
Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), sometimes known as “Red Flag Laws,” empower family members and law enforcement agencies to prevent gun violence and gun-related suicides. The intent of these laws is to reduce risk and protect people in crisis from harming themselves or others, not to further stigmatize them. Therefore, members of the gun violence prevention movement call these laws “extreme risk laws” or “extreme risk protection orders.”
What are extreme risk laws?
Under such a law, family members and law enforcement officials can petition a court to temporarily separate at-risk individuals from firearms. If the judge finds the person poses a significant danger of injury to self or others, the judge will order that the firearms be temporarily placed in safe storage until the person is safe. Studies have shown that these laws work. Recent research found that for every 10 to 20 ERPOs filed, at least one life is saved from suicide.1
How can we pass extreme risk laws?
Sandy Hook Promise supports legislation that enables families to alert law enforcement to potentially dangerous situations and gives law enforcement the tools and authority they need to remove firearms in the interest of public safety. Congress can take action at the federal level to incentivize state passage of these lifesaving laws and to provide funding to ensure these laws are implemented effectively.
Which states have ERPO (aka “Red Flag”) laws?
ERPOs, “Red Flag Laws” or substantially similar legislation has been passed in: California, Colorado, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
If you live in a state with an ERPO law, contact your federal representative and ask them to support funding for ERPOs. Please take time today to educate your family, friends and neighbors about the law and how it can save a life.
1. Duke University School of Law