Pass HB 229 Extreme Risk Protective Order to save lives in Utah!

For the past two years, legislators have considered – but not passed – an Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) bill, also known as a ‘red flag’ law, to address firearm suicide in Utah. Such laws have been passed in 18 states and have been shown to dramatically reduce suicides.

68% of Utahns support a red flag law for Utah, including Republicans, Democrats and gun owners alike. 

HB 229 by Rep. Steve Handy will soon be heard by legislators, but speaking up in support of this bill is critical!

In the meantime, a new bill by Sen. Thatcher, SB 87 Firearm Commitment Amendments​, has been erroneously touted as a replacement for Extreme Risk Protective Orders. Although SB 87 relates to Safe Harbor law with the aim of preventing firearm violence, it is a very different policy with no research to support that it works and no overlap with the usefulness of Extreme Risk Protective Orders. Here is a comparison of the two bills, side by side.

Legislators need to know: both bills should be passed – not just one!

HB 229 Extreme Risk Protective Order is a priority bill for the Utah Chapter of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition, the National Association for Mental Illness, physician groups, the Utah Nurses Association, and many more organizations working hard to reduce suicides in Utah. 

Write your letter to your state representative and state senator below! If you want to do more, please attend an Action Utah Lobby — our team will help you lobby legislators in person for this important bill. Sign up for a lobby day here.

Information for your letter

Help Utah pass HB 229 Extreme Risk Protective Order to save lives in Utah!

How are HB 229 and SB 87 different?

No one policy will single-handedly resolve Utah’s suicide problem. Extreme Risk Protective Orders and Safe Harbor law are two ways to reduce access to firearms for a person in crisis in order to save lives. Both methods are worth having in Utah, but they are not alike, and only extreme risk protective orders are shown to have an impact. Ask legislators to pass HB 229 Extreme Risk Protective Order, and help them to understand the differences from SB 87 by sharing this bill comparison information.

What would HB 229 Extreme Risk Protective Order do?

Utah’s Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) bill would enact a civil procedure by which a family member or law enforcement may petition a judge to issue an order to temporarily remove firearms from a dangerous person threatening harm to themselves or others. ERPOs do three things:

  1. Save lives – Research shows a reduction in firearm suicides by 7.5%-13.5% in other states – around 1 in 10 – and that for every 10 orders granted a life is saved.
  2. Provide a pathway to behavioral health services – 44% of respondents received behavioral health services after an order was filed who had not received them before.
  3. Protect Second Amendment Rights – Earlier intervention by ERPO reduces the risk of a respondent committing a crime that would make them a permanently prohibited person and ensures automatic return of firearms at the end of an order.

Importantly, the bill states that:

  • Firearms will be automatically restored at the end of an ERPO (unless, of course, a respondent is a prohibited person).
  • Only a limited group of people may petition a judge to grant an order – no vindictive neighbors or angry strangers – and false accusations carry a strong penalty (third degree felony).
  • Only a judge can decide to issue an ERPO, and they must base their decision on strict evidentiary standards considering specific and multiple factors of risk.
  • The burden of proof is on the petitioner to present strong evidence that a respondent poses a dangerous risk to themselves or others.
  • ERPOs are temporary! Emergency orders last up to 14 days, after which a firearm may be returned unless evidence proves the respondent is not yet out of crisis. They may be extended for a year.
  • A judge can recommend professional evaluation for behavioral health services in order to help a person in crisis get the treatment they need.
  • The respondent has the right to appeal a judge’s decision as well as to request early termination of an order.

Use this fact sheet for more information.

Suggested Talking Points

(Remember to personalize your comments for the greatest impact! Why do YOU support this proposal?)

  • Two decades of data from other states show that Extreme Risk Protective Orders (ERPOs) significantly reduce suicide rates AND provide a pathway for substance abuse and mental health treatment for respondents.
  • ERPOs, or red flag bills, could have prevented a significant number of mass shootings, such as the Parkland Shooting in 2018. That’s why Florida passed a red flag bill directly after Parkland, just as other states have done in the aftermath of mass shootings.
  • Means matters, and research shows that lethal means reduction is one of the most important methods of suicide prevention. ERPOs are a legal mechanism for lethal means reduction that respects gun rights.
  • Data shows that over 90% of people who survive a suicide attempt do not go on to die by suicide – even if they attempt suicide by another means. Firearms are by far the most lethal means for suicide. Temporarily removing access to the most lethal means from a person during a time of crisis can save their life and/or the lives of others.
  • ERPOs have strong due process protections and require high evidentiary standards.
  • ERPOs have been proven time and again to be constitutional (consistent with the 2nd, 4th and 14th Amendments) and are modeled after other existing orders already in place for domestic violence and other situations threatening irreparable harm.
  • A full hearing is required for a respondent within 14 days of the issue of an order, at which point a petitioner must present clear and convincing evidence for the order to be extended.
  • ERPOs include a mechanism for quick return of firearms to a respondent after an order expires.
  • Utah’s red flag bill includes safety measures for law enforcement to avoid violent confrontations when carrying out the order.
  • Utah’s red flag bill includes strict penalties for false claims (third degree felony) and the ability for a respondent to appeal the order.
  • 17 states plus the District of Columbia currently have ERPO laws; many other states are currently considering them.
  • 68% of Utahns support ERPO laws; 78% of Americans favor ERPOs nationwide.
  • Are you a gun owner who supports ERPOs? Be sure to mention it!

Who supports ERPOs

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