Extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs), also known as red flag laws, are a potential tool to prevent firearm violence, including mass shootings, but little is currently known about the extent of their use in cases of mass shooting threats or about the threats themselves. We collected and abstracted information from ERPO cases from six states (California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, and Washington). Ten percent (N = 662) of all ERPO cases (N = 6787) were in response to a threat of killing at least 3 people. Using these cases, we created a typology of multiple victim/mass shooting threats, the most common of which was the maximum casualty threat. The most common target for a multiple victim/mass shooting threat was a K-12 school, followed by businesses, then intimate partners and their children and families. Judges granted 93% of petitions that involved these threats at the temporary ERPO stage and, of those cases in which a final hearing was held, judges granted 84% of final ERPOs. While we cannot know how many of the 662 ERPO cases precipitated by a threat would have resulted in a multiple victim/mass shooting event had ERPO laws not been used to prohibit the purchase and possession of firearms, the study provides evidence at least that ERPOs are being used in six states in a substantial number of these kinds of cases that could have ended in tragedy.
Keywords: Extreme risk protection order; Gun violence; Homicide; Mass shooting; Violence.
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