Academic Research on Extreme Risk Protection Orders

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs)—often known as “red flag laws”—empower families and law enforcement to prevent gun tragedies by temporarily restricting access to guns for individuals at an elevated risk of harming themselves or others.

While mental illness is not a predictor of violence, there are certain behaviors that can indicate a person  is more likely to commit a violent act, either against another person or themselves. Research shows that a history of unmanaged anger, domestic violence, and substance abuse are often antecedents of gun violence. Triggering events such as loss of a job or the dissolution of a relationship can exacerbate the situation. Often, family members may be the only individuals aware that person may be a danger to themselves or someone else. Currently in Tennessee and number of other states, there is no mechanism in place for concerned family members to intervene and remove firearms from a loved one they believe to be dangerous.

Broad, Bipartisan Support
Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) are supported by members of both political parties.  The National Review has written a number of articles on them, encouraging state and federal lawmakers to pass them.  The American Bar Association also supports them as does the American Medical AssociationThe Major Cities Police Chiefs Association also support them.

Senator Lindsey Graham has proposed bipartisan legislation to encourage more states to adopt “red flag” laws. Senator Marco Rubio has also voiced support for the legislation.

While generally thought of as a way to prevent mass shootings, ERPOs can be an important tool to thwart other forms of gun violence, including intimate partner shootings and could be one of the best ways to prevent firearm suicides, which take over 50 lives a month in Tennessee.

Below are a number of academic research studies and publications related to Extreme Risk Protections Orders (ERPOs)/ “Red Flag Laws”:

Extreme Risk Protection Orders Intended to Prevent Mass Shootings: A Case Series
Garen J. Wintemute, MD, MPH; Veronica A. Pear, MPH; Julia P. Schleimer, MPH; Rocco Pallin, MPH; Sydney Sohl, BS; Nicole Kravitz-Wirtz, PhD; Elizabeth A. Tomsich, PhD
Annals of Internal Medicine (2019)
Key Findings: Four cases arose primarily in relation to medical or mental health conditions, and such conditions were noted in 4 others. Fifty-two firearms were recovered. As of early August 2019, none of the threatened shootings had occurred, and no other homicides or suicides by persons subject to the orders were identified. It is impossible to know whether violence would have occurred had ERPOs not been issued, and the authors make no claim of a causal relationship. Nonetheless, the cases suggest that this urgent, individualized intervention can play a role in efforts to prevent mass shootings, in health care settings and elsewhere. Further evaluation would be helpful.

Effects of Risk-Based Firearm Seizure Laws in Connecticut and Indiana on Suicide Rates, 1981–2015
Aaron J. Kivisto, Ph.D., and Peter Lee Phalen, M.A.
Psychiatric Services (2018)
Key Findings: Risk-based firearm seizure laws were associated with reduced population-level firearm suicide rates, and evidence for a replacement effect was mixed.

Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut’s Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does it Prevent Suicides?Duke University Law and Contemporary Problems (2017)
Key Findings: The evidence presented in this article suggests that enacting and implementing laws like Connecticut’s civil risk warrant statute in other states could significantly mitigate the risk posed by that small proportion of legal gun owners who, at times, may pose a significant danger to themselves or others. Such laws could thus save many lives and prove to be an important piece in the complex puzzle of gun violence prevention in the United States.