Washington, D.C., December 21, 2018 -- End Family Fire, a program of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, applauds the action this week by Vermont authorities to use an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) to temporarily remove firearms from a home, potentially preventing the shooting of a middle school student. The move came after a student reported to the school principal that she overheard two other students plotting to take guns from one of their relatives’ homes and bring them to school to shoot a fourth student. State law in Vermont allowed this to be used as evidence that an individual was a risk to themselves and/or others and the need to temporarily remove the guns from the home of the relative.
A potential tragedy was averted in part because a young student bravely came forward and reported what she knew, but also because authorities had a legal mechanism -- the ERPO -- for removing guns from dangerous hands. The incident further demonstrates the very real threat to public safety posed by family fire -- a shooting involving an improperly stored or misused gun found in the home resulting in death or injury. In fact 75% of school shootings are facilitated by kids having access to unsecured and/or unsupervised guns at home.
The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence launched the End Family Fire campaign this August to increase public awareness about the risks of improperly stored guns, and to engage gun owners to help protect their families and communities from family fire tragedies.
While safe storage practices are critical to reducing family fire incidents, removing a gun from the home, especially if there is someone in crisis, is indeed the safest solution. The case this week in Vermont underscores the value of ERPOs as a means of preventing another family fire tragedy.
“If a loved one poses a risk of danger to themselves or others, it is imperative to remove firearms from the home and store them safely off premise,” said Kyleanne Hunter, Vice President for Programs at the Brady Center. “The Extreme Risk Protection Order is the most effective tool we have to prevent family fire, and the Vermont case is a clear example of this.”
Only 13 states currently have extreme risk laws: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
ERPOs, also known as Gun Violence Restraining Orders, are civil court orders that enable guns to be removed from the home, and further purchases prevented, for a fixed period of time. Family members, household members, intimate partners or law enforcement officers can present a judge with evidence such as recent threats, substance abuse, mental health problems or past dangerous behavior with guns in order to activate an ERPO.
ERPOs are temporary, and those who have had guns removed under an ERPO can eventually get them back with court approval, once they are judged to no longer pose a threat to themselves or others.
For more information on End Family Fire, visit www.EndFamilyFire.org.
Brady has one powerful mission — to unite all Americans against gun violence. We work across Congress, the courts, and our communities with over 90 grassroots chapters, bringing together young and old, red and blue, and every shade of color to find common ground in common sense. In the spirit of our namesakes Jim and Sarah Brady, we have fought for over 45 years to take action, not sides, and we will not stop until this epidemic ends. It’s in our hands.