It has been a very busy two months for gun violence prevention champions across the country. In addition to coordinating walkouts, marches, town halls, and new activist trainings, many of our affiliates are racing the clock to pass life-saving legislation before regular legislative sessions end.
Since the February 14, 2018 tragedy at Parkland, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have been under immense public pressure to pass measures to prevent mass shootings and help students feel safe at school. In statehouses around the country, there is growing bipartisan consensus that Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO) can save lives by giving law enforcement and family members a vital tool to prevent tragedies before a shot is ever fired.
In many cases of gun violence, such as mass shootings and suicide, the shooter exhibits warning signs before a tragedy occurs. For example, the Parkland gunman was long known to law enforcement as troubled and a threat, but law enforcement was powerless to intervene. ERPO laws, also known as Gun Violence Restraining Orders or “red flag laws,” allow family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that an individual poses a serious threat of violence to themselves or others. Family members and law enforcement are often in the best position to recognize the warning signs of violence and creating an ERPO will provide a tool to prevent a tragedy before it’s too late.
Five states had ERPO laws prior to this year: California, Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon, and Washington. Red flag bills have been introduced in 28 states this legislative session and have received a warm reception by Republicans and Democrats alike. Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a red flag bill on March 9, 2018, and Republican Vermont Gov. Phil Scott signed an ERPO bill into law on April 11, 2018.
In the final days of the legislative session, States United affiliate Marylanders to Prevent Gun Violence passed an ERPO bill in addition to a bump stock ban, oversight of the Handgun Permit Review Board, and funding for gun violence prevention programs. It should come as no surprise that the leaders of the Maryland group, Jen Pauliukonis and Liz Banach, were named “Winners of the 2018 General Assembly.”
Our Massachusetts affiliate Stop Handgun Violence just cleared an important hurdle on April 13, 2018 when an ERPO bill received unanimous support from the Joint Committee on Public Safety. Want to know the status of ‘red flag’ laws across the country? The Trace has got you covered.
Finally, have you seen our new resource featuring quotes from conservative voices supporting ERPO laws? Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, and even the NRA’s Chris Cox are on the record supporting this targeted and effective tool for law enforcement to keep our communities safe.