Extreme Risk Protection Orders | NAMI

Extreme Risk Protection/Red Flag Laws

Where We Stand

NAMI believes that public policies should be guided by credible, evidence-based research. NAMI supports Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) that focus on specific, current behaviors and evidence-based risk factors for violence. NAMI opposes any ERPO laws that target, single out, or discriminate against people with mental health conditions.

Why We Care

ERPOs are civil court orders issued by judges to temporarily remove firearms or ammunition from people who are identified as posing immediate or imminent risks to the safety of themselves or others. When appropriately implemented, these laws can be lifesaving.

Following incidents of mass violence, public opinion and dialogue often centers around mental illness as the culprit. This discussion reinforces long standing, unfounded negative stereotypes linking mental illness with violence. Most people with serious mental illness are never violent toward others and are more often victims of violence than perpetrators. Moreover, only 4% of violent acts in the U.S. are attributed to mental illness. Research tells us that other factors — such as a history of violence, misuse of alcohol or drugs, or prior convictions for violent misdemeanors — are greater predictors of violence.

Furthermore, the discussion of gun violence prevention is not complete without addressing the issue of suicide. Suicide is a significant public health crisis in the U.S. and firearms are the most common method of death by suicide. ERPO can reduce the risk of firearm suicide by temporarily removing firearms from someone at serious risk of harming themselves.

How We Talk About It

  • Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs) can be lifesaving tools to prevent gun tragedies.
  • ERPOS temporarily restrict access to guns for individuals who are at a higher risk of harming themselves or others.
  • Tragically, suicide is a leading cause of death in the U.S., and firearms are the most common method of death by suicide.
  • Family members are often in the best position to identify a crisis situation and know when their loved one could be at risk of harming themselves or others.
  • An individual’s history of mental illness or a specific diagnosis is not a good predictor for violence.
  • Therefore, it is not appropriate or effective to identify mental illness as a risk factor in ERPO laws.
  • Blaming mental illness for gun violence only serves to perpetuate stigma and distract from the real issues that this country needs to address to reduce gun violence.
  • Most people with serious mental illness are not violent towards others. In fact, only 4% of violent acts in the U.S. are associated with serious mental illness.
  • People with mental illness are more often victims of violence than the cause of violence. Studies have shown that people with mental illness are 23 times more likely to be victims of a violent crime than others.
  • Because of this, it is not appropriate for ERPOs to identify people with mental illness and should instead focus on an individual’s behavior and risk for violence.
  • When crafted and executed appropriately, ERPOs can keep firearms out of the hands of the people who may intend to harm themselves or others and save lives as a result.

What We’ve Done

  • NAMI testimony to U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on Extreme Risk Protection Orders

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