Background: In the United States, 74% of homicides and 51% of suicides involve firearms. Using extreme risk protection order (ERPO) laws, petitioners can request restricting firearm access for individuals (known as "respondents") who pose a risk to themselves or others.
Objective: To characterize respondents and circumstances of ERPOs.
Design: Descriptive study.
Setting: State of Washington.
Participants: All ERPO respondents during 8 December 2016 to 10 May 2019.
Measurements: Reason for filing the ERPO; characteristics of respondents; respondent's reported history of domestic violence perpetration, mental illness, substance misuse, and suicide ideation or attempt; number and type of firearms removed; and ERPO petition outcome (granted or not granted).
Results: The ERPOs were filed for concerns about harm to self (n = 67), harm to others (n = 86), or harm to both self and others (n = 84). Of all ERPOs, 87% were filed by law enforcement and 81% were granted. At least 1 firearm was removed from 64% of respondents, with a total of 641 firearms removed. The petitioner reported prior domestic violence perpetration by the respondent in 24% of cases, and a prior diagnosis of a mental health condition and substance misuse for the respondent in 40% and 47% of cases, respectively. Of all respondents, 62% had a history of suicidal ideation or attempt according to the petitioner. As part of the ERPO process, the court ordered mental health evaluation in 30% of cases.
Limitation: Filing of the forms was inconsistent.
Conclusion: Laws regarding ERPOs are a potential tool to help protect patients or family members from harming themselves or others by restricting firearm possession and purchase. Further studies are needed to determine the long-term effects of these laws and identify approaches to increase their use.
Primary funding source: State of Washington.