Skip to main content

Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs)

ERPOs, sometimes referred to as red flag laws, are civil court orders that temporarily restrict firearm access for an individual who is behaving dangerously or presents a high risk of harm to self or others.

The Issue

In many incidents of gun violence, warning signs are present that an individual is at risk of harming themselves or others. Family members are often the first to know when loved ones are in a suicidal crisis or threatening interpersonal violence. In many high-profile shootings and firearm suicides, family members saw their loved ones engage in risky behaviors and grew concerned about their risk of harming themselves or others.  These warning signs present an opportunity to proactively intervene rather than wait for a tragedy to occur.

The Solution 

An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) is a civil court order that temporarily restricts firearm access for an individual who is behaving dangerously or presents a high risk of harm to self or others. By authorizing the temporary removal of firearms and prohibiting the individual from purchasing, possessing, or accessing firearms while the order is in effect, ERPOs provide a critical opportunity to intervene to prevent gun violence, including mass violence, homicide, and suicide. Law enforcement, and, depending on the state’s ERPO law, others such as family or household members, may petition the court to temporarily restrict a person’s access to firearms when they are at elevated risk of harming themselves or others. ERPOs grant law enforcement clear authority to temporarily remove firearms from ERPO respondents and prevent them from purchasing new guns for the duration of the order. 

When deciding whether to issue an ERPO, courts should consider evidence-based criteria, not a mental health diagnosis alone, and whether the risk of violence is imminent. The evidence a judge may consider when issuing an order for firearm removal varies among states. It generally includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Recent acts or threats of violence towards self or others. 

  • History of threatening or dangerous behavior. 

  • History of, or current, risky alcohol or controlled substance use. 

  • Recent violation of a domestic violence protective order. 

  • Unlawful or reckless use, display, or brandishing of a firearm. 

  • Cruelty to animals. 

There are usually two types of ERPOs:  

  1. An ex parte, or temporary, ERPO that is available quickly and typically only lasts for one to two weeks. 

  1. A final ERPO, which typically lasts up to one year and may only be issued after a notice of hearing at which the respondent has the opportunity to appear and be heard. Both temporary and final ERPOs are civil, not criminal, orders. 

How do ERPOs encompass due process?

ERPO laws are consistent with the rights afforded under the United States Constitution. Funding for ERPO implementation under BSCA must also be consistent with the due process protections of the U.S. Constitution, including the 5th and 14th Amendments. Rights articulated under BSCA include the rights to:  

  • Notice  
  • An in-person hearing  
  • An unbiased adjudicator  
  • Know opposing evidence  
  • Present evidence  
  • Confront adverse witnesses  
  • Counsel (at no expense to the government)  
  • Penalties for abuse of the program 

The Evidence

Extreme Risk Protection Orders Prevent Suicides

Researchers examined 762 ERPO-style orders issued in Connecticut from 1999–2013. They found that ERPOs were used to prevent suicides among a population that had an annual suicide rate 40 times higher than the general public. In 99% of cases, police recovered firearms removing an average of seven guns per subject. The researchers calculated that for every 10–20 orders issued, one suicide was prevented. 1

Extreme Risk Protection Orders Are Used in Efforts to Prevent Mass Shootings

Researchers analyzed nearly 6,800 cases from six states (CA, CO, CT, FL, MD, WA) and identified 662 cases, or 10%, of ERPOs were issued in response to a threat to shoot at least three people.2

Increased Awareness of ERPOs is Critical

Researchers found most physicians in one Maryland hospital were unfamiliar with the state’s ERPO law. After being informed about the law, a majority showed a willingness to use it. Emergency medicine physicians in the sample reported the potential to use it more often compared to psychiatrists and pediatricians who responded.3 


ERPO: Preventing Gun Violence and Saving Lives

In this video, made in partnership with the Bloomberg American Health Initiative, Professor Shannon Frattaroli, PhD '99, MPH '94, shares the power and potential of ERPO laws to save lives.

Our Work

Extreme Risk Protection Orders were developed by the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy in 2013 after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Center faculty and staff are among the founding members of the Consortium and continue to lead ERPO implementation efforts nationwide.  

The Center has participated in advocacy efforts to pass and fund ERPO in 21 states and the District of Columbia since 2014. Today, more than half of all Americans live in a state that has an ERPO, and this is the direct result of the work of the Center, the Consortium, and gun violence prevention advocates across the country. 


The National ERPO Resource Center 

The Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), established the National ERPO Resource Center (ERC) in 2023. The ERC is a training and technical assistance (TTA) hub designed to support states and localities with the implementation of their ERPO programs to reduce gun violence and save lives.  

Training and Technical Assistance through the ERC includes: 

  • Development and dissemination of trainings for ERPO stakeholders. 

  • Support for states and local jurisdictions to implement ERPO programs. 

  • Facilitation of peer-to-peer engagements with model ERPO learning sites. 

  • Delivery of presentations and webinars to advance states’ and localities’ knowledge on key ERPO topics.  

The ERC will also support states and local jurisdictions to ensure that funding received through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act (BSCA) is effectively utilized and that all ERPO activities include the law’s required constitutional and due process protections.  

Successful ERPO implementation requires the collaboration of a variety of stakeholders, including law enforcement, prosecutors, attorneys, judicial officers, clinicians, educators, veterans’ organizations, victim service providers, community organizations, and behavioral health and social service providers. Each of these partners plays an important role in the ERPO process, from the initiation of the order to the return of firearms (where appropriate). In collaboration with BJA, the ERC will support these ERPO implementers and partners nationwide by providing TTA. 

Contact the National ERPO Resource Center at

Homepage of

The National ERPO Resource Center (ERC) will offer original and curated resources, including specific information about each state’s ERPO law, ERPO toolkits, implementation guides, a training and technical assistance request form, and a calendar of events designed to support states to implement their ERPO laws.  


“The public health approach to gun violence prevention tells us that we need to look upstream and prevent violence before it occurs. Extreme risk protection orders do just that. ERPO data from around the country shows us that ERPOs are a promising tool to curb our gun violence epidemic.” 

Lisa Geller, MPH 
Senior Advisor for Implementation and Co-Lead of the National ERPO Resource Center 

Journal Articles and Reports

1. Swanson JW et al. (2017). Implementation and effectiveness of Connecticut’s risk-based gun removal law: Does it prevent suicides? Law and Contemporary Problems.  

2.Zeoli AM, Frattaroli S, Barnard L, Bowen A, Christy A, Easter M, Kapoor R, Knoepke C, Ma W, Molocznik A, Norko M, Omaki E, Paruk JK, Pear VA, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Schleimer JP, Swanson JW, & Wintemute GJ. (2022). Extreme risk protection orders in response to threats of multiple victim/mass shooting in six U.S. states: A descriptive study. Preventive Medicine

3. Frattaroli S, Hoops K, Irvin NA, et al. (2019). Assessment of Physician Self-reported Knowledge and Use of Maryland’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Law. JAMA Network Open

Support Our Life Saving Work