By Amanda Kippert
Essentially they’re a temporary restraining order for guns. Called ERPOs, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, these orders allow family members or law enforcement to remove guns from the possession of someone they believe poses a risk to themselves or others. The hope is that ERPOs can be the barrier between a dangerous person and murder or suicide, including in instances where domestic violence is present.
As it stands, women are 16 times more likely to be killed with guns in the U.S. than in other developed countries, and more than half of all women killed with guns are murdered by intimate partners or family members, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit advocating for gun reforms and that’s been instrumental in pushing ERPOs forward on a federal level. Notoriously, abusers are most likely to become lethal when a survivor leaves them. If ERPOs become an option in more states—currently, only Washington, California, Connecticut and Oregon have ERPO laws, but 19 other states have pending legislation—the hope is that the risk for domestic violence homicide can drop significantly.
Standard protection orders do not always require the perpetrator to relinquish firearms. According to Sam Levy, counsel for Everytown, 30 states plus the District of Columbia prohibit firearm possession by people subject to domestic violence restraining orders (DVROs), though only 19 states and D.C. require abusers to turn in any guns in their possession.
“As a result, even though they are legally prohibited from possessing guns, without a relinquishment mechanism, prohibited abusers can still access guns they purchased before the DVRO was issued and use them to harm their victims and others,” says Levy. “It is therefore crucial that states have laws requiring relinquishment as part of their DVRO process.”
ERPOs Are Not a Cure-All
Despite its pros, Levy cautions that ERPOs are not going to magically erase the danger abusers with guns pose.
“ERPOs are not intended to be an alternative to domestic violence restraining orders or to address gaps in existing laws intended to protect survivors of domestic violence,” says Levy.