Friday, July 7, 2017

Oregon legislators pass bipartisan bill to reduce suicide and domestic violence deaths

A statement from Ceasefire Oregon:

Today the Oregon legislature passed SB 719, the Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) bill, which allows families and law enforcement to prevent tragedies by petitioning a court to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms and other dangerous weapons. The bill, cosponsored by Senator Boquist and Senator Burdick, is expected to be signed into law by Governor Kate Brown.

Oregonians now have an important tool to help reduce suicide, domestic violence, and shootings.

“People who are thinking of killing themselves or harming others often often show signs or declare their intentions well before committing the act. The first people to see those signs are often family members,” stated Joanne Skirving, president of Ceasefire Oregon. “An ERPO gives families and law enforcement a chance to intervene and perhaps prevent a tragedy. In Oregon, where suicide is 85% of all gunshot deaths, temporarily removing access to guns is especially important to prevent suicide.”

Washington state voters passed Initiative 14911, an ERPO law, in November 2016 by a 40 point margin (70% to 30%). Indiana and Connecticut2 also have versions of ERPO. In 2014, California passed AB 1014,3 called a Gun Violence Restraining Order, in response to a killing rampage earlier that year in Isla Vista.

Jenna Yuille of Americans for Responsible Solutions noted, “In 1999, Connecticut became the first state to pass a similar law and they've seen life-saving results. In the first 14 years of its implementation, police issued 762 orders, which helped save dozens of lives.4 We thank Senators Boquist and Burdick for their efforts to make ERPO a reality in Oregon.”

Once an ERPO has been filed, a court must find clear and convincing evidence that an individual is threatening harm to self or others, before the court can order the respondent to temporarily surrender any guns to the police. The respondent will not be able to buy, sell, or possess other firearms for a temporary period of time.

Penny Okamoto, executive director of Ceasefire Oregon explained the ERPO due process protections. “To protect the rights of the respondent, the bill establishes procedures for the respondent to request a hearing. The burden of proof is on the petitioner to show clear and convincing evidence.”  Okamoto added, “ERPOs are not to be taken lightly. False applications of ERPO or violation of ERPO is punishable by one year’s imprisonment, $6,250 fine or both.”

Passage of this bill has been a bipartisan effort across Oregon.

“Oregon continues to show that we can move past partisanship to find common ground when it comes to gun safety,” said Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety President Jenn Lynch. “Building on our bipartisan work in 2015 to address the nexus between domestic violence and gun violence, this legislation shows how leaders can move past political posturing to find real solutions to make our communities safer.”

Passing this bill is the culmination of work by many gun violence prevention advocates in Oregon including the family of Laura Magee, Melissa Keyser, Central Coast Ceasefire Oregon, Ceasefire Oregon, Americans for Responsible Solutions, the Oregon Alliance for Gun Safety, Gun Owners for Responsible Ownership, League of Women Voters of Oregon, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Oregon Brady Campaign, Pastor Mark Knutson, Rev. Lynne Smouse Lopez, Rev. Chuck Currie, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Moms Demand Action, and Everytown for Gun Safety and thousands of individual gun violence prevention advocates across Oregon.
  1. Swanson, Jeffrey W. and Norko, Michael and Lin, Hsiu-Ju and Alanis-Hirsch, Kelly and Frisman, Linda and Baranoski, Madelon and Easter, Michele and Gilbert, Allison and Swartz, Marvin and Bonnie, Richard J., Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut's Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does it Prevent Suicides? (August 24, 2016). Law and Contemporary Problems, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: