Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) provide a civil mechanism to temporarily remove firearm access from individuals at high risk of harming themselves or others. Evidence and theory suggest that ERPOs can prevent firearm-related harm, but the policy's impact on racial/ethnic equity is largely unknown. To examine potential inequities by race/ethnicity in public perceptions and use of California's ERPO law, we drew on two complementary data sources: 1) a 2020 state-representative survey of California adults, and 2) ERPO court documents for the first 3 years of policy implementation (2016-2018). Majorities (54-89%) of all racial/ethnic groups reported that ERPOs are at least sometimes appropriate, and 64-94% were willing to ask a judge for an ERPO for a family member. However, Black and Hispanic/Latinx survey participants less often perceived ERPOs as appropriate and were less willing to serve as petitioners, with Black participants citing lack of knowledge about ERPOs and not trusting the system to be fair as their top reasons for unwillingness. Similarly, review of ERPO court documents revealed that no family or household members served as petitioners for Black and Hispanic/Latinx ERPO respondents. Additionally, Black respondents were the least likely to have documented access to a firearm and legal representation in court. Racial/ethnic equity in ERPO use may be improved by reducing barriers to petitioning, incorporating non-law enforcement intervention professionals like behavioral health specialists into the ERPO process, providing legal assistance to respondents and petitioners, and investing in the social safety net.
Keywords: Equity; Extreme risk protection orders; Gun violence; Health policy; Race and ethnicity.
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