Texas should join other states that have adopted an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) law, allowing civil court judges to temporarily remove firearms from individuals threatening to harm themselves or others. This constitutional process saves lives and helps people in crisis access support. This measure could have prevented the 2019 mass shooting in El Paso.
Why an ERPO?
In many instances of gun violence, family members or friends noticed warning signs that shooters were at risk of harming themselves or others. In response to these tragedies, 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted lifesaving ERPOs that can prevent gun tragedies before they occur.
Texas law does not provide a clear legal authority to restrict access to guns before a tragedy occurs, even when it is clear that an individual is at risk of harming themselves or others. ERPO laws provide a legal means, using a civil process, to prevent tragedies.
ERPO laws empower families, household members, or law enforcement officers to petition a civil court judge to temporarily deny a person’s access to firearms and ammunition before they can hurt themselves or others.
ERPO Laws Are Safe And Legal
ERPO requests must include substantial evidence (statements, actions, or facts) of potential lethal harm before the civil court judge can order one. ERPOs are in place for a limited amount of time and include a penalty for any false statements.
ERPOs are modeled on long-standing domestic violence protection orders, (in place in all 50 states, and involve both a court hearing and clearly defined due process protections. ERPOs are a civil, not criminal, proceeding. The subject of an ERPO hearing can contest the ERPO, have an attorney represent them, and petition to vacate an ERPO. When a person is able to demonstrate diminished risk to the court, their access to firearms can be reinstated, after a background check as appropriate.
Courts in multiple states have held that their ERPO laws do not violate the constitution.
The majority of Republicans, Independents, and Democrats in Texas support ERPOs.
ERPOs save lives
Connecticut’s firearm suicide rate decreased 14% after passage of ERPO.
Indiana’s ERPO was associated with 7.5% fewer gun suicides over the decade following the law’s passage in 2005.
A recent study of ERPO use in six states reported 10% of ERPO petitions involved threats of mass violence, “threat of killing at least 3 people.” The threats targeted schools, businesses, “intimate partners and their children and families.” Judges granted over 80% of the petitions
In Florida, a Republican governor and a Republican-majority legislature passed a detailed and specific ERPO law with processes for both removing & returning firearms.