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ERPO Petitions 2021

In 2018, Governor Charlie Baker signed the so-called “Red Flag” Law. The law allows family members or police departments to file a petition to receive, following a hearing, what is called an Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) from a judge to confiscate someone’s legally owned firearms, if that person is determined to pose a danger to themselves or others. Since its passage four years ago, the law has only been used 44 times (10 in 2018; 19 in 2019; 9 in 2020; and 6 in 2021) and has resulted in only 30 items surrendered.

These low numbers, especially from 2021, show that this law is unnecessary and it remains to be seen how effective it can or will be in combatting gun violence. Beyond the fact that no type of appeals court has had the opportunity to decide if the ERPO procedure is due process enough to deny someone of their Constitutional Civil Rights, the law is also a bit redundant as police in Massachusetts already had the ability to temporarily revoke firearms licenses for safety reasons even before this new law existed.

Red flag laws still do nothing to address mental health concerns in the Commonwealth, which is the root of most of the violence problem in the US. Red flag laws allow for a temporary “solution” to a perceived issue but do nothing but further stigmatize and deny civil rights to those with mental health problems. Rather than inventing new ways to confiscate guns from lawful gun owners, the state should instead focus on helping those in need of mental health care.

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