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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: February 20, 2018 11:18 AM
From: Senator Wayne D. Fontana
To: All Senate members
Subject: Extreme Risk Protection Order
With the recent events that took place in Parkland, Florida, I intend to introduce legislation to establish a system in our Commonwealth for the implementation of Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPO). An Extreme Risk Protection Order grants family members and law enforcement the ability to petition a court to temporarily suspend an individual’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that an individual is a threatening harm to themselves or others. The person subject to that order must surrender their guns to police and will not be able to buy, sell, or possess other firearms with a judge determining the time frame of this suspension not to exceed one year.

ERPO are modeled after Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Protection Orders which gives due process and standards for evidence. After a family member files a petition, the court holds a hearing and determines whether the person poses a serious threat of violence to themselves or others. A judge can then issue an ERPO and can also refer the person in crisis for evaluation to ensure they get the help they need. An order is put in place for not more than one year. After the completion of the year, a hearing will take place to determine if the ERPO can be lifted or the order renewed should circumstances warrant. The subject may request one hearing a year to rescind the order.

Current laws barring gun ownership are limited. Generally, a person with a long history of mental health issues can still legally buy or possesses firearms if they don’t fall into specific statutory categories. With that being said, many times law enforcement have felt that their hands are tied when it comes to some circumstances.

By enacting ERPO in the commonwealth, our state will empower those who are closest to an individual and who are exhibiting dangerous behaviors by temporarily taking away their ability to have access to guns. Around 42 percent of mass shooters exhibit warning signs or concerning behaviors before their crimes. ERPOs will give families and law enforcement another tool to prevent a possible tragedy before it happens.

Currently, Washington, California, Connecticut and Oregon have ERPO laws. But with the recent mass shootings that have taken place since the Pulse Nightclub attack in June 2016, legislatures in 19 states and Washington D.C. have taken up more than 32 ERPO bills for consideration.

I hope you will consider joining me in co sponsoring this very important legislation so that Pennsylvania does not become the next state to have a senseless shooting that could have been prevented.

Introduced as SB18