Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO)

In Washington State, three in every four firearm deaths are suicides. Access to firearms triples the risk of suicide. Empathetic conversation about firearm safety and mental health is associated with more people using safe gun storage, reducing the risk of preventable injury and death. Washington State provides three critical interventions to support an individual in crisis: Firearm Safe Storage, Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), and Voluntary Waiver of Firearm Rights (Voluntary Do-Not-Sell).

On this page, we will focus on Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs): ERPOs allow families or law enforcement to petition a judge to restrict individual possession and purchase of firearms using a civil order.

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An Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO), which voters approved in 2016 through Initiative 1491, is one way to protect someone you care about from harming themselves or others with firearms. Before and during times of crisis, ERPOs can help you intervene to keep the people you care about safe.

  • An ERPO is a civil order that allows a family or household member or a member of law enforcement to petition a judge to restrict individual possession and purchase of firearms when you worry that an individual’s behavior indicates they might be at substantial risk of harming themselves or others.

How to use an ERPO:

  1. You can file a temporary ERPO (also called an ex parte order) petition at the county clerk’s office at the county’s superior court, which lasts 14 days or until first hearing.
  2. You can also ask your health care provider for help, and they can tell law enforcement about the situation to get assistance. You can also contact law enforcement directly.
  3. A judge will determine if a temporary ERPO is needed. This most often occurs on the same day you file the petition.
  4. If approved, the order will be granted. Law enforcement will enforce the order to the respondent and remove firearms from the home.
  5. The final ERPO hearing is held to decide if a full ERPO is needed. The respondent may challenge petition at this time.
  6. If granted, the ERPO will be in effect for one year. The respondent will not be able to be in possession of nor purchase any new firearms.

ERPOs can keep at-risk loved ones safe from a suicide attempt or an attempt to harm others with a firearm. ERPOs are an effective tool to prevent suicide. One study found that for every 10 to 20 ERPOs granted, 1 suicide was prevented. ERPOs may also be useful for preventing mass shootings, homicides, and intimate partner shootings.

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