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Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy

Extreme Risk Protection Orders

Many people who pose a high risk of harming themselves or someone else with a firearm can legally possess guns and would pass a background check required to purchase a new gun. State laws often do not provide a clear legal mechanism to restrict access to guns before a tragedy occurs, even when it is clear that an individual is at risk of causing harm to self or others.

An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is a civil order with due process protections issued by a court when someone is at risk of violence to self or others. Depending on the state’s ERPO law, family members, dating partners, household members, law enforcement, health professionals, co-workers, and school administrators may petition the court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms when he or she is behaving dangerously and at the risk of committing violence.

ERPOs grant law enforcement clear authority to temporarily remove firearms from ERPO respondents and prevent them from purchasing new guns for the duration of the order.

When deciding whether to issue an ERPO, courts consider dangerous behaviors (e.g., threats of violence, acts of violence) and whether the risk of violence is imminent. ERPOs are temporary (length of time varies among the states, but for no more than 5 years), do not result in a criminal record for the respondent, and usually include a two-stage process with the first stage allowing for short-term removal through an ex parte hearing in which the respondent is not present, followed by a court hearing with both the respondent and the petitioner during which the court decides whether to extend the ERPO issued as part of the first stage.

When an ERPO is terminated or expires, the respondent can request the return of their guns. Law enforcement will run a background check to make sure that the respondent is not prohibited from possessing firearms for any other reason and then return the firearms.

Key Statistic

As of July 1, 2020 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted Extreme Risk Protection Order laws to allow petitioners to ask the court to temporarily prevent a person who is at risk of violence (including suicide risk) from purchasing or possessing firearms.

“When I look at the landscape of gun violence prevention policy in this country and the possibilities for progress, I’m very hopeful[...] By bringing science to policy, we’re getting good laws that are making a difference in our communities every day and ERPO is a prime example of that.”

– Shannon Frattaroli, associate professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

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Public-facing Education on ERPOs

In partnership with the Bloomberg American Health Initiative at the Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, the Center has helped launch a new Teach-Out on Extreme Risk Protection Order laws! ERPO: A Civic Approach to Gun Violence Teach-Out provides a unique opportunity to learn more about this evidence-based approach to reducing gun violence through scientific data and first-person accounts of those who are on the front lines using ERPOs as a tool to save lives.

What is a Teach-Out? Good question! Teach-Outs were pioneered by the University of Michigan in 2017 (learn more at Teach-Out.org). Like other online education offerings you may be familiar with (such as our Massive Open Online Course, Reducing Gun Violence in America: Evidence for Change) a Teach-Out is free, online, and open to the public, however, it’s shorter – only for a couple of weeks! – no quizzes or deadlines, focuses on one topic, and encourages interactive discussions and calls to action in your own community.

This Teach-Out is co-led by Shannon Frattaroli, PhD, MPH, associate professor and core faculty member in the center, Josh Horwitz, JD, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Katherine Hoops, MD, MPH, assistant professor and a pediatrician in pediatric critical care at the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

The learning event has ended, but the course materials are still available to you!