—The nation’s major gun reform organizations have endorsed legislation sponsored by Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) to help families and law enforcement to better prevent suicides and gun violence. Stephens’s bill would create an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO).
“One way to prevent gun violence is to identify those who pose a threat to themselves or others,” Stephens said. “We must create a way for family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily prohibit certain individuals from possessing firearms or ammunition, and to relinquish any firearms or ammunition they may currently have, to prevent them from doing harm.”
House Bill 2227
would allow a court to take the precautions necessary when provided with clear and convincing evidence the subject poses an extreme risk to him or herself or others. If a court issues an ERPO prohibiting an individual from possessing firearms, that information would be promptly submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police to prevent the individual from purchasing firearms as well.
Endorsing the legislation is Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, founded following the shooting of U.S. Rep. Gabby Giffords and committed to stemming the national gun death epidemic; CeaseFire PA, a statewide organization that works with mayors, police chiefs, churches and community organizations in standing against gun violence; Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, created to demand action from legislatures, companies, and educational institutions to establish common-sense gun reforms; Everytown for Gun Safety; the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police Association; and the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association.
“Red flag laws like House Bill 2227 can save lives by empowering family members and law enforcement,” said Sarah Higginbotham, regional director of state affairs for Everytown for Gun Safety. “Red flag laws can provide a lifeline for people in crisis helping to prevent suicides and getting help to people who need it.”
“The daily toll of gun violence coupled with heartbreaking mass shootings like those in Parkland and Santa Fe make it clear we need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people,” said David Chipman, senior policy advisor at Giffords. “It’s time we give law enforcement and families the tools they need to make sure that someone who is experiencing a crisis can’t get their hands on a firearm. This legislation would go a long way toward keeping Pennsylvanian communities and those serving them safer.”
“The great thing about this bill is that it works,” said Shira Goodman, of CeaseFire PA. “The data from other states, including Connecticut, which has had a bill like this since 1999 is that it saves lives. It prevents suicides, probably prevents homicides, and gets people into treatment and is temporary.”
“We can prevent tragedies by ensuring that those who have been determined to pose a significant risk of suicide or causing significant injury to someone else do not have access to firearms,” said Berks County District Attorney John Adams, president of the Pennsylvania District Attorneys Association. “We applaud this bipartisan effort to make our communities safer.”
If a court issues an ERPO prohibiting an individual from possessing firearms, that information would be promptly submitted to the Pennsylvania State Police to prevent the individual from purchasing firearms as well.
Under this bill, a court could immediately issue a temporary ERPO, but it must follow up with a full expedited hearing where the subject of the order may participate and offer evidence and testimony before a final order is issued. Final orders must be as short as safety allows but may not last more than one year.
Under this process, a district attorney could represent the petitioner, while a public defender could represent the respondent at the hearing for a final order.
The bill will also impose criminal penalties on any person who files a petition for an ERPO that contains false statements.
“This approach to fighting gun violence has been embraced by groups on both sides of the gun issue and I’m hopeful we can move this commonsense legislation quickly to give families and law enforcement another tool to combat gun violence,” Stephens said.
Representative Todd Stephens
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: David Foster