Gun Violence

Extreme Risk Laws: Preventing Tragedies Before They Occur

May 1, 2019 | National

“I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” This was the chilling comment made by the Parkland shooter in a video posted online in September 2017—more than a year before he took the lives of 17 classmates and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Shamefully, this was just one of many early warning signs. The FBI received other tips about the young man’s gun ownership, continued threats of violence, and erratic behavior a month prior to the shooting.

We had signs. We had time. So why didn’t we have tools to intervene before it was too late?

Extreme risk laws seek to fix this unconscionable problem. Extreme risk laws provide law enforcement officers and family members with a legal mechanism to temporarily restrict an individual’s access to guns if they display signs of endangering themselves or others. When an individual is in crisis or poses a potential threat, concerned loved ones or law enforcement officers can petition a judge to issue an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) which prohibits an at-risk individual from purchasing a gun and allows law enforcement to temporarily hold guns already in their possession.

ERPOs successfully keep firearms out of the hands of those who might use them to harm themselves or others, saving lives and preventing moments of crisis from becoming irreversible tragedies. Under Connecticut’s extreme risk law, 99 percent of ERPOs issued in the state led to the removal of one or more guns. For every 10-11 orders issued, one suicide was prevented. Put simply: ERPOs work.

Recognizing the promise of ERPOs, 15 states and D.C. have already enacted extreme risk laws. Now, Congress is looking to establish a federal grant program to encourage more states to enact this lifesaving legislation.

Do you know if your state has Extreme Risk Protection Orders and how to use them? Find out at One Thing You Can Do. If not, urge your leaders in the state house and Congress to enact this common sense policy solution. We can—and must—do more to prevent senseless gun tragedies and save lives.