Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) have been shown to prevent suicides by temporarily removing firearms from individuals in crisis who pose a dangerous threat to themselves or others. That’s why red and blue states alike across the U.S. are proposing and passing ERPO policies. Utah is one of them!
Utah State Rep. Steve Handy (R-Layton) has proposed an ERPO policy that improves public health and safety, allows law enforcement to do their job better and reduces costs to healthcare systems and local and state government. YOU can help get this policy passed to save lives in Utah!
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Write a letter to the editor of your local paper in support of ERPO Policy for suicide prevention. You can use these helpful resources:
- ERPO Policy and Talking Points (below)
- TIPS on how to write a Letter to the Editor
ERPO Policy and Talking Points
Utah has the 5th highest suicide rate in the nation, and suicide is the 5th leading cause of death. One suicide occurs in Utah ever 14 hours, and 12 people are treated for suicide attempts every day. In many cases of suicide (and also cases of mass shootings, domestic violence homicides and other gun deaths and injuries), a person in crisis exhibited warning signs of impending violence, yet no legal mechanism was available for law enforcement or their loved ones to remove firearms already in the person’s possession to prevent tragedy from occurring. A majority of suicides in Utah and in the U.S. are committed with a firearm, which is by far the most lethal means. Yet among those who survive a suicide attempt, about 90% never go on to attempt suicide again.
An Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) law allows family members such as spouses, parents, siblings or children and/or law enforcement officials a legal mechanism to prevent tragedies by temporarily removing firearms from certain individuals deemed to be of extremely high risk for committing violence to themselves and/or to others.
Family members are often the first to recognize warning signs when someone in the midst of a personal crisis begins to exhibit violent, or dangerously erratic behavior that could harm others.
What this policy does:
The ERPO policy proposal in Utah allows family members, as well as law enforcement officers, to petition a court for a protective order to temporarily remove a person’s access to guns if he or she poses an imminent danger to self, or others. This policy is based on successful ERPO laws already in place in 11 states and being considered in 18 more.
Why support this policy?
- Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) are proven to save lives. Several states that already have an ERPO law in place have seen significant reductions in suicide rates* and domestic homicides.*
- ERPOs improve public safety and help law enforcement to do their jobs better by giving law enforcement a mechanism to remove lethal means in extreme risk situations and filling gaps in the law in order to intervene and avert tragedy.
- ERPOs can save money for healthcare systems, state and local governments and the economy. Suicides cost $2.9 billion* to hospitals annually in the U.S. In Utah, suicides cost Utah a total of $629,958,000 of combined lifetime medical and work loss costs in 2010, or an average of $1,331,835 per suicide death.*
- ERPOs strike an appropriate balance between public safety and respect for individual liberties by incorporating strong due process safeguards for the respondent, high evidentiary standards, judicial review and discretion, and a process for firearms to be restored upon determination the respondent no longer poses a threat to others.
- Supporters of ERPO policy during the 2018 State Legislative Session: Intermountain Healthcare, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, Episcopal Diocese of Utah, Utah Public Health Association, Utah Nurses Association, Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, YWCA and Voices for Utah Children.
Other talking points
- Means matters: A majority of suicides in Utah are attempted with firearms, which are by far the most lethal at 82.5-90%. Other common methods can have a lethal rate as low as 1-2%. Means matters because about 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to try again.*
- Means restriction works: Means restriction is a well-known preventative measure to combat suicide. In fact, lethal means restriction is one of only two approaches in suicide prevention that have been recognized as having a strong empirical foundation (the other is physician education in recognizing and treating depression). That means helping people survive periods of acute suicidal risk by reducing their access to highly lethal methods is likely to help many people survive in both the short, and long term.*
- ERPOs fill gaps in the law.
- ERPOs give law enforcement and family members a legal mechanism to help a person in crisis during the most urgent and critical time. Many suicidal people do not meet the strict requirements for psychiatric hospitalization, leaving no other legal mechanism to help a person in crisis and a low likelihood that they will voluntarily help themselves. Even if a person does meet hospitalization requirements, evaluation takes time and leaves a person vulnerable when the need for help is urgent and immediate. Furthermore, beds are not always available for those who do meet the requirements for hospitalization, leaving them without needed help and in possession of extremely lethal means.
- ERPOs provide a mechanism to avert tragedies earlier in the protective process. Perpetrators of a domestic violence threat or action may remain in possession of lethal means until a final protective order is filed. That means a person who may be a significant danger to others is able to possess or purchase a firearm and commit an act of violence before the protective order process is completed, even after that person is arrested and a protective order is in process.
* Swanson, J.W. et al., (2017) Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut’s Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does it Prevent Suicides? 80 Law and Contemporary Problems, 179-208. Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/lcp/vol80/iss2/8
* Zeoli, A. M., Malinski, R. , and Turchan, B., (2016) Risks and Targeted Interventions: Firearms in Intimate Partner Violence, Epidemiological Review, Vol. 38, 125-139.
* Health Affairs (2017) Emergency Department Visits for Firearm-Related Injuries in the United States, 2006-14. https://www.healthaffairs.org/doi/full/10.1377/hlthaff.2017.0625
* KUED (2016) Utah: Suicide Facts and Figures. https://www.kued.org/sites/default/files/utah-facts-2016_2000.pdf
* Spicer, R.S. and Miller, T.R. Suicide acts in 8 states: incidence and case fatality rates by demographics and method. American Journal of Public Health. 2000:90(12);1885. Available at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/case-fatality/