New Jersey is continuing its fight against senseless gun violence with the Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) Act. Passed in 2019 the measure – known as a red flag law – authorizes state courts to issue protective orders against people who pose a significant threat to themselves or others with a firearm.
A family or household member or a law-enforcement officer can apply for the order, and once an ERPO is issued, the respondent is prohibited from purchasing a firearm or ammunition and from possessing any firearms identification cards or permits.
“This law was a huge step in the right direction when it comes to protecting our citizens from gun violence,” said county Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr. “The best way to prevent gun injuries and deaths is by stopping a weapon from getting into the hands of a bad person, and the ERPO Act allows that to happen.”
Immediately after it was signed into law, the measure was being utilized by judges to approve protective orders more than once a day on average, according to a 2019 report by WHYY. But commissioners in Camden County and Moms Demand Action – a grassroots organization to protect people from gun violence – believe that not enough New Jerseyans know about the ERPO act.
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, discussed how red flag laws are crucial to reducing gun violence and gun deaths.
“Red flag laws are critical tools to help save lives and prevent gun violence before it happens, but in order to be effective, they must be used,” she said. “New Jersey has led the nation on gun safety, and it’s so important that they continue to do so by raising awareness and strongly implementing their Red flag law.”
Moms Demand Action got started after the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six adults, and there is now a volunteer chapter in every state and Washington, D.C. The group is also part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country,
Watts was recently named one of Time magazine’s Top 100 Influential People of 2023.
“We want to make sure that every single resident in the state of New Jersey understands that they have the power to stop a deadly situation from happening just by reporting their concerns through an ERPO request,” Cappelli noted. “Oftentimes after these mass shootings, we hear those closest to the perpetrator discuss the warning signs they observed but never acted upon.
“If you observe concerning behavior from someone in your family or household,” he added, “you can prevent them from carrying out a crime with a firearm by reporting it. You can save a life. So please, do not hesitate to file an ERPO request.”
Family members can file firearm removal petitions directly. They include:
- A spouse, domestic partner, or partner in a civil union
- A former spouse, domestic partner, or partner in a civil union
- A present or previous household member
- Any co-parent or guardian of a child in common
- Anyone expecting a child with the subject of an ERPO request
- A current or former dating partner.
Law enforcement agents can also file petitions directly with the court.
For more information on how to do so, visit www.njcourts.gov/self-help/firearm-removal