Extreme Risk Protection Orders are life-saving tools, designed to be filed when someone is at a very high risk of harming themselves or others. Temporarily restricting their access to firearms may reduce the risk of harm. In this section, learn when an ERPO may be appropriate to file.
If you or someone else is in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you are experiencing an emotional or mental crisis, please text or call 988 (the National Suicide and Crisis hotline).
An ERPO petition should be filed if there is a substantial risk that someone will harm themselves or others in the near future.
ERPOs are appropriate if an individual is at risk of harming someone (including themself) and the petitioner believes that there is a substantial risk of them acting on it in the near future. Factors that may be considered when filing for an ERPO include, but are not limited to:
- Recent threats or thoughts of harming themself or others
- A history of attempts, threats, and/or uses of violence against themselves or others, in addition to the current risk of harm
Any evidence that someone in serious mental or emotional distress may harm themselves or others
Any previous or existing restrictive orders, including but not limited to an ERPO, domestic violence restraining order (DVRO), or a personal protection order (PPO)
Any previous criminal offenses that involve violence or threats
Any recent abuse of drugs or alcohol
Recent unlawful or reckless brandishing of a firearm
An ERPO should not be filed if there is not a substantial risk of harm in the near future.
ERPOs are designed to respond to substantial risks of harm and prevent tragedies before they can happen. If the person is not at risk of harm themself or others, then an ERPO may not be for you. If a court reviews an ERPO petition and does not believe there is a substantial risk of harm either imminently or in the near future, they will dismiss the petition. If you are unsure, you may be able to speak with a law enforcement officer to help you assess risk.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, please call or text the National Suicide and Crisis hotline by dialing 988.
To learn more about what resources are available for individuals in crisis, click the button below:
An ERPO may be filed even if the person at risk of harming themself or others doesn’t currently possess a gun.
If someone is at risk of harming themselves or others, but doesn’t own a firearm, it may still be appropriate to file an ERPO petition. ERPO orders temporarily prevent high risk individuals from purchasing guns by flagging them as ineligible to purchase in a background check.
If there is an immediate risk of harm, CALL 911.
In instances where someone is at a clear, immediate risk of harming themselves or others, or is already harming themselves or others, call 911 immediately. Even fast-tracked, or ex parte, ERPO petitions may take time to process and be reviewed by a court, which could take too long to prevent a tragedy in an emergency. Once the immediate risk is over, an ERPO may still be filed after the fact to prevent future risks of harm.
Examples of ERPOs Preventing Tragedies
The following examples are real-world uses of Extreme Risk Protection Orders from around the country, responding to multiple situations where ERPOs were effectively used to prevent tragedies and potentially save lives.
Shooting at a neighbor in Burien, WA
An ERPO was filed after a man shot at his neighbor to “send a message” and threatened to do it again. Police arrested the man, seizing at least 14 guns which may have been used to harm or kill the neighbor if an ERPO was not filed. Without the ERPO, they may have had to return the guns while there was still a risk of danger.
“Burien PD: Man arrested, at least 14 guns seized after shooting at neighbor to ‘send a message,’” Fox 13 Seattle, June 8, 2023, https://bit.ly/44tSYYW.
An ERPO was filed after a woman planned to shoot herself in a public park. The woman had previously been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and PTSD and was potentially facing unemployment.
Graham Moomaw, “Pro-gun Localities Accounted for Nearly Half of Virginia’s Red Flag Orders in Law’s First Months,” Virginia Mercury, October 6, 2020, https://bit.ly/3gS6iB3.
Domestic violence in Union, NY
A woman filed an ERPO after her boyfriend tried to smother her in her sleep, then threatened to shoot her. When serving the order, officers found an illegally obtained revolver at the boyfriend’s home.
“Man arrested after trying to smother, threatening to shoot his girlfriend,” WBNG, February 16, 2023, https://bit.ly/3Tbmtdy.
Threats toward a school in Middletown, CT
A man was served an ERPO after threatening to “shoot up” and “take down” a school. Although he didn’t possess any firearms at the time, the order prevented him from purchasing any while in effect.
Brendan Crowley, “Memo Leak Details Police Investigation of Threats Aimed at Middletown Schools,” The Connecticut Examiner, May 1, 2023, https://bit.ly/46FIkQU.
Suicide threat in Bartholomew County, IN
A woman contacted the police after her husband threatened to shoot himself or threaten others to shoot him. After restraining the man and taking him to a hospital, the police filed an ERPO and 20 guns were removed from his home.
“20 Guns Confiscated From Bartholomew County Man Under Indiana’s Red Flag Law,” WTTV, July 13, 2020, https://bit.ly/3gLEvSt.
Domestic violence and suicide threat in Rifle, CO
In the first use of an ERPO in Colorado, an intoxicated police officer with a history of domestic violence threatened to kill his ex-wife, his children, and himself. The ex-wife called the police and the officer was arrested. Later, an ERPO was filed and his guns were removed.
Marshall Zelinger, “First Known Case Using Colorado’s New Red Flag Law Filed in Denver,” KUSA TV, January 3, 2020, https://bit.ly/38S4ws7.
If you are in immediate danger, please call 911.
If you are experiencing a crisis, please text or call 988.
The content of this website is not legal advice and is only intended for general informational purposes. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney.