How Do Red Flag Laws Work? ERPO Gets At-Risk People Away from Guns
It seems like any time you watch the news these days, you see a story about another shooting across the country. Whether it is a disgruntled worker who targets his workplace, a student who feels she doesn’t belong, or someone who takes their own life, each shooting is tragic. Mental illness often plays a major part in these events and shooters often display warning signs and threatening behaviors before their attacks.
According to a 2020 Gallup poll, 32% of U.S. adults say they personally own a gun, while 44% report living in a gun household. The Second Amendment outlines a citizen’s right to bear arms, but what happens when people indicate an intent to harm themselves or others?
That’s where Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) come in. Also known as Red Flag Laws, ERPOs are designed to save lives from suicide and gun homicides by creating a tool to proactively intervene and keep those at risk of hurting themselves and others from accessing a firearm.
Here’s how they work: An ERPO may be started by a district attorney, a police officer, a school official or a family member. ERPO cases are civil matters and have no criminal charges or penalties. This court order prohibits a person from purchasing or possessing guns and requires the person to surrender any guns they already own or possess.
An ERPO can also direct the sheriff’s office to search a person, premises or a vehicle for guns and remove them. The case will then get a hearing date approximately 3–10 days after the application is filed. Both sides will get a chance to tell their side of the story to the judge, and if the application is granted, it can last up to one year. If the judge decides the ERPO is not needed, the case is over.
Red Flag Laws are not the final solution to gun related deaths. However, studies show that one suicide was averted for every 10 to 20 gun removals. ERPOs help people suffering from mental health issues who may want to harm themselves or others by making it harder to obtain guns. They are a step in the right direction and are a positive force in saving lives.