Extreme Risk Protection Orders Could Reduce Suicide and Firearms Deaths in Pennsylvania

Last Updated: Aug 8, 2019

Gun-SafetyIn 2017, there were 1,636 firearms deaths in Pennsylvania. Approximately 61 percent of those deaths were the result of suicide.

Extreme risk protection order (ERPO) legislation, also known as “red flag” laws, are getting a closer look in Pennsylvania and nationwide as a way to reduce deaths by suicide and other forms of gun violence.

PAMED Advocacy on Extreme Risk Protection Orders

The Pennsylvania Medical Society supports efforts to establish Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) in the commonwealth. Physician and medical student delegates at PAMED’s 2018 House of Delegates approved a resolution directing PAMED to advocate for ERPO legislation.

Currently, the major mechanism to limit access to firearms by those who pose a risk for suicide is involuntary psychiatric commitment via the Mental Health Procedures Act, which can confer a lifelong ban on firearms possession. Many families hesitate to use involuntary psychiatric commitment due to stigma and to the permanent removal of gun rights.

On May 17, 2019, PAMED sent a letter to State Rep. Todd Stephens (R-Montgomery) expressing our support of ERPO legislation that he is sponsoring (House Bill 1075). The bill aims to create a new mechanism for loved ones, family members, and law enforcement to ask a judge to hold a hearing to determine whether an individual is in crisis and should be temporarily disarmed. 

“House Bill 1075 will add another tool for Pennsylvania families to use to protect their loved ones while in crisis or suffering from the effects of poor mental health,” wrote PAMED Board Chair John Gallagher, MD, in the letter. “By temporarily disarming someone in crisis, they can get the help they need without losing their Constitutional rights.”

What’s Next for ERPO Legislation

House Bill 1075 was introduced on April 5, 2019 and has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee.

PAMED is part of a large, diverse ERPO coalition of stakeholder organizations – ranging from gun safety groups to state law enforcement – who are working with legislators to advance this legislation and save lives in Pennsylvania.

Note: PAMED is monitoring ongoing litigation concerning interpretation of the Mental Health Procedures Act. We will provide any updates to members as necessary.

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