How Extreme Risk Protection Orders Could Save Lives

I’m a big fan of the second amendment. I own firearms and I try to be responsible in my ownership, but at the same time, every right has limits. – Judiciary Committee Chairman, Lindsay Graham

Chairman Graham is correct. Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) are an extreme solution to extreme times. What is happening in our country is easy to dismiss, especially if you or those you love have not been impacted. Many would lead you to believe that there is only one way to fight this battle – with solutions that put law-abiding firearm owners closer and closer to dissolving their Second Amendment rights.

This is not true. We can save lives and still protect the Second Amendment. Please see my blogpost, Why Should You Support Red Flag Law?, to learn more about this law. And for those of you that have not experienced gun violence first hand, let me share a few stories – stories that could have potentially ended differently with ERPO.

Kirsten Russell is a firearm owner living in Louisville KY. In April of 2018, Kirsten lost her mother, Ruth Perkins, to gun violence. From Kirsten:

Without question, ERPO could have saved my mother’s life. My brother, who had become mentally ill in recent years, took her life in April 2018. Our family had tried countless times to help him, going as far as requesting mental inquests, but judges didn’t believe he met the requirements. On paper he appeared normal but to those of us who knew him best, we were concerned. His erratic behavior, extreme paranoia, and easy access to firearms were a terrifying combination – a combination that led to this horrific tragedy.

My family’s tragedy could have been prevented if we had been able to petition for the removal of his firearms.

Larry Newcomer is a firearm owner living in Mainville, OH. In September of 2018, Larry lost his brother, Richard Newcomer, to gun violence at the hands of an active shooter at the Fifth Third Center in Cincinnati, OH. The shooter’s alleged struggles with mental illness are well documented, citing evidence that his mother and sister requested a mental inquest in 2007 in Broward County, FL. There were signs and, potentially, family or law enforcement could have intervened if ERPOs were available in the state of OH. From Larry:

I firmly believe that ERPO tools enforced in States and incorporated in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) would prevent many future suicides, homicides and mass shootings. Many of the tragedies in our headlines involved individuals with documented evidence and/or very credible witness testimony that the shooters were a danger to themselves, family members, or the public. ERPO has support among government leaders, elected officials, law enforcement, and even the general population as long as such laws allow appropriate due process and protection against frivolous claims. That is very achievable.

This is not about infringing on Second Amendment rights. It’s about protecting our entire population and all our rights to tranquility, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…rights that, without any due process, were taken away from all the victims and their families by the perpetrators of the Cincinnati mass shooting, the Parkland School shooting, the Thousand Oaks mass shooting, and countless others.

Brian Sarver is a firearm owner living in Cincinnati, OH. In September of 2018, Brian was shot by an active shooter at the Fifth Third Center in Cincinnati, OH. As a result, Brian lost his spleen and will continue to feel the effects of the injury for years to come. From Brian:

As an owner of several firearms, I continue to be thankful for my Second Amendment right to bear arms, and appreciate the fact that many other responsible gun owners have that same right. However, as I was recently a victim of a violent shooting by someone who was likely mentally ill, I can support ERPOs. These orders would provide an option for family members or law enforcement to petition the court to remove firearms from mentally ill people before any kind of violent event could occur. To me, the key considerations for success would include due process protections for the respondent balanced with protecting the general public when, in fact, there is clear evidence of extreme risk.

As mental illness continues to be a big part of gun violence in this country, we need to consider new solutions to the problem while ensuring we remain true to the rights of responsible gun owners. I pray these horrific events do not continue, but if we don’t work toward a ‘common ground solution’, I fear we will continue to see these types of shootings more and more often.

My drive to bring ERPO to KY and OH is intense. It comes from deep within me and is part of a promise I made to myself on September 6th. I prayed I would find the strength to use all skills bestowed upon me to approach this issue in the most strategic and effective way, all in an effort to save lives.

I’d like to close this blogpost with transparency. We have a lot of work to do to make ERPO to happen in the states of KY and OH. With assistance from Morgan McGarvey (KY D – State Senator), an ERPO bill was submitted into the KY legislature in February 2018. Unfortunately, the bill did not gain the legislature’s attention until too late in the session to be taken seriously.

So, what comes next? With the help of Kirsten, Larry, Brian, and the full Whitney/Strong team, we will continue to meet with legislators, mayors, governors, and like-minded organizations to assist with our goal. For KY, this is a 2020 goal. For OH, the timeline is still being defined.

If you believe in this as our final solution for Whitney/Strong, please provide financial support by clicking here.