An Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) is a court-issued
civil order that would empower Massachusetts families and
law enforcement to prevent gun tragedies by reducing access
to guns for individuals at an elevated risk of endangering
themselves or others.
In July 2018, the Extreme Risk Protective Order bill was signed into law.
Learn more about the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) at onethingtodo.org.
Benefits of Extreme Risk Protective Order Over Existing Law
While Massachusetts has some of the strongest gun laws in the country, over 50% of gun deaths in MA are suicides. An Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) is a civil order that allows a court to temporarily restrict access to firearms from a person when they pose a serious danger to themselves or others. ERPO laws could help prevent gun suicide, and could also help prevent mass shootings, not only saving victims but also saving the potential shooter from the consequences of committing an act of violence.
Benefits of ERPO:
Creates a means for concerned families to petition the court directly for an order revoking a gun license and removing weapons, without having to first contact the local police department. Persons subject to an ERPO are brought to the attention of the court by a family member or loved one who is seeking to save their life; the person in crisis will need to survive the immediate crisis in order to get the treatment they need. The ERPO process ensures this happens by first restricting access to firearms and then ensuring information about help is provided.
Provides families with the option to directly obtain the ERPO if local law enforcement does not remove firearms and suspend their loved one’s license once contacted, as was the case in Parkland.
Under existing law, an FID license holder retains his or her long guns pending appeal which can last many weeks. With ERPO, the guns are immediately removed until an expedited full hearing is held.
ERPO helps provide crucial crisis intervention information to those most in need. ERPO legislation specifies that the court staff handbook shall allow for the addition of a community resource list of crisis intervention, mental health, substance abuse, interpreter, counseling, and other relevant resources serving the county in which the court is located.
Why Existing Laws Aren’t Enough:
Existing protections under Section 12 of M.G.L. c.123 require a specific finding of mental illness after examination by a physician or mental health practitioner in advance of being hospitalized to prevent serious harm. ERPO provides a more immediate response, allowing the temporary removal of firearms while other assessments can be made. Additionally, ERPO focuses on risk factors for dangerous behavior, rather than a mental health diagnosis. By focusing on evidence-based risk factors, ERPO does not perpetuate harmful stigmas that often create obstacles for treatment-seeking behavior. In fact, research has shown that ERPO-style laws have provided a gateway to critical mental health and substance use disorder services.
● Current law in Section 12 does not allow a family member to petition the court directly in response to behavior being exhibited, while ERPO does allow a petition to the court for immediate removal.
● Existing 209A domestic violence orders do not address the risk of suicide or the risk to the community at large. ERPO extends to a person who is a threat to themselves and/or the public.
● ERPO is needed in addition to M.G.L. c. 123 Section 35, which permits involuntary commitments for alcohol and substance abuse. As discussed above, ERPO addresses a much broader range of circumstances where an individual poses a danger. And, while treatment for substance abuse is critical, it is secondary to survival. ERPO provides for immediate removal of the means to inflict injury or death in the event of an extreme threat, allowing the possibility of subsequent treatment for the person in crisis.
There is no one, or simple, fix to stop all causes of harm. Guns pose an immediate, portable, easily concealed means of lethality. Removing them as quickly as possible when someone is at severe risk of causing harm to themselves or the community at large is a common-sense step to further reduce gun deaths in MA.