Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Older Adults in Six U.S. States: A Descriptive Study

Betz ME, Frattaroli S, Knoepke CE, Johnson R, Christy A, Schleimer JP, Pear VA, McCarthy M, Kapoor R, Norko MA, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Ma W, Wintemute GJ, Swanson JW, Zeoli AM. Extreme Risk Protection Orders in Older Adults in Six U.S. States: A Descriptive Study. Clin Gerontol. 2024 Jul-Sep;47(4):536-543. doi: 10.1080/07317115.2023.2254279. Epub 2023 Sep 9. PMID: 37688772.


Objectives: Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) allow a court to restrict firearm access for individuals (“respondents”) at imminent risk of harm to self/others. Little is known about ERPOs use for older adults, a population with higher rates of suicide and dementia.

Methods: We abstracted ERPO cases through June 30, 2020, from California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and Washington. We restricted our analysis to petitions for older (≥65 years) respondents, stratified by documented cognitive impairment.

Results: Among 6,699 ERPO petitions, 672 (10.0%) were for older adults; 13.7% (n = 92) of these noted cognitive impairment. Most were white (75.7%) men (90.2%). Cognitively impaired (vs. non-impaired) respondents were older (mean age 78.2 vs 72.7 years) and more likely to have documented irrational/erratic behavior (30.4% vs 15.7%), but less likely to have documented suicidality (33.7% vs 55.0%). At the time of the petition, 56.2% of older adult respondents had documented firearm access (median accessible firearms = 3, range 1-160).

Conclusions: Approximately 14% of ERPO petitions for older adults involved cognitive impairment; one-third of these noted suicide risk. Studies examining ERPO implementation across states may inform usage and awareness.

Clinical implications: ERPOs may reduce firearm access among older adults with cognitive impairment, suicidality, or risk of violence.

keywords: Cognitive impairment; dementia; extreme risk protection order; firearm; older adult.