Extreme Risk Protection Orders and the Effects on Firearm Suicides
A 2010 report released by the CDC highlighted a disturbing trend of firearm violence: the majority of firearm deaths – 61 percent – are a result of suicide rather than homicide. Only Connecticut and Indiana had recognized this trend prior to the release of this report and, in 1999 and 2004 respectfully, attempted to address it by enacting policies that paved the way for contemporary Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws. An ERPO law gives an invested party (e.g., family or household members) the opportunity to legally prevent an individual in crisis from harming themselves or others by temporarily separating them from their guns and preventing them from purchasing another firearm.
Opponents of ERPO laws cite issues relating to second amendment protections, due process, and the potential for aggravating an already volatile person. Despite documented resistance, ERPO laws have amassed great momentum across the country. Also called “red flag laws,” they vary in scope and definition across the 15 states that have implemented them.
This white paper explores a unique feature of Maryland’s relatively new ERPO law: the inclusion of medical practitioners as potential ERPO petitioners. In an effort to better understand the impact of ERPOs on firearm-related suicide, this paper explores how medical and legal communities are teaming up to address issues arising from the interplay of mental health and gun ownership. We begin with an introduction to the state of gun violence research, followed by an introduction to ERPOs, and a discussion of the scope of ERPOs in the United States. We then highlight Maryland’s new ERPO policy, and discuss how it differs from other State policies. We conclude with a discussion of the research needed to build knowledge of ERPOs, and a call to action.