Extreme risk laws allow for the temporary removal of guns from people in crisis.
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act was introduced to Congress in 2021. Sponsored by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA) and Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), this legislation encourages states to allow family members or law enforcement officials to petition a judge to temporarily remove firearms from a person in crisis.
I lost my older sister to suicide with a firearm at a young age. What I’ve learned since is that temporarily preventing people from having a gun while in a state of crisis, and giving our law enforcement the right tools to address dangerous behaviors, saves lives.Rep. Carbajal
What’s an Extreme Risk Law?
Extreme risk laws give family members, law enforcement, and sometimes other key individuals — for example, health professionals or school administrators — an avenue to prevent a person in crisis from harming themselves or others by temporarily removing guns and prohibiting the purchase of firearms. Nineteen states and Washington, D.C., have enacted versions of extreme risk laws.
What Does the “extreme Risk Protection Order Act” Do? How Would It Help States?
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act would establish a program under the Department of Justice (DOJ) to award grants to states to implement extreme risk laws. The legislation provides minimum standards that states must meet or exceed in order to be eligible for grants. This process allows states to tailor a law to their unique circumstances.
At least 25 percent of the grant funding provided to a state by the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act must be used to train law enforcement. Funds provided to states may be used toward four key goals in efforts to prevent gun violence:
- Enhance capacity of law enforcement agencies and courts by providing personnel, training, and resources.
- Train judges, court personnel, and law enforcement to accurately identify individuals at risk of harming themselves or others with a gun.
- Develop and implement law enforcement and court protocols, forms, and orders to effectively carry out extreme risk laws.
- Raise public awareness and understanding of extreme risk laws.
The Extreme Risk Protection Order Act requires qualifying legislation to have an ex-parte process, by which temporary orders can be issued before a full hearing takes place if there’s reasonable cause that a respondent poses a danger to himself or others with a firearm in the near future.
The legislation allows flexibility for states to provide procedures by which termination and renewal of risk orders can take place, establish burdens of proof that are higher than what is specified in this bill, and limit the individuals who can submit an application.
How Do “extreme Risk” Laws Work?
Extreme risk laws allow a family member, law enforcement, or other key individuals as allowed by each state to present evidence to a civil court judge that an individual is a risk to themselves or others. The facts that are typically considered by a judge include:
- Patterns or recent threats and acts of violence
- Dangerous past behavior with guns
- Substance abuse
- Recent firearms or ammunition acquisition
The at-risk individual is given an opportunity to be heard and present evidence before the judge at a court hearing. If the judge finds that the evidence warrants temporarily removing guns from the individual, then the judge issues an extreme risk order. The extreme risk order prevents the individual in crisis from purchasing a gun and allows law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms and from their possession.
When the extreme risk order is terminated, law enforcement returns the guns to the individual, as long as they are the legal owner. In many states, there’s a process by which the individual can petition during the course of the order to have another hearing for termination.