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Extreme Risk Protection Order Use: Lack of Process Leads to Abuse

Monday, February 3, 2020

Extreme Risk Protection Order Use: Lack of Process Leads to Abuse

New Jersey’s Extreme Risk Protection Order Act went into effect last September and NJ Advance Media has published an analysis of Orders issued since. The number of final orders issued may surprise readers: final orders account for less than half of the number of permanent orders issued. 

As of January 22nd, 186 temporary orders have been issued. NJ Advance media notes that number equals more than one such order per day. Judges denied 25 petitions for temporary orders. Once a temporary order is issued, the subject’s firearms are seized and a hearing is held within a set period of time to determine if a final order is issued. The subject of the ERPO has, at this hearing, their first opportunity to speak on his or her own behalf and to provide a defense.

Judges in New Jersey issued 88 final orders between September 1st and January 22nd, and denied 29 final orders. Eighty-eight final orders issued following 186 temporary orders. The status of the remaining cases was not clear.

But New Jersey is not alone in its ardent pursuit of Extreme Risk Protection Orders. From March 2018 through November 2019, the state of Florida granted 3,190 Temporary Ex Parte Risk Protection Orders (TRPO) after 2,833 TRPO hearings following 3,112 TRPO petitions filed. The data was provided by the Florida Courts.

To make that a little easier to read, the state of Florida issued more Temporary Ex Parte Risk Protection Orders than there were petitions for such orders filed or hearings for such orders held. That is an average of almost five ex parte orders issued per day in Florida over that time period. Florida’s population is about 2.4 times larger than New Jersey’s.

At the county level, Pinellas County in Florida issued 445 orders granting a TRPO but only held 341 TRPO hearings in the same time period. There were 448 petitions for a TRPO filed in that county. Manatee County, Florida, saw 57 TRPOs issued but just 31 hearings (and 59 petitions). Okaloosa County held 9 TRPO hearings but issued 23 Temporary Ex Parte Risk Protection Orders. In Sumter County, it was 31 orders and just two hearings.

This does not necessarily mean that law enforcement or the judiciary in either state is acting nefariously. The concern with red flag laws, or ERPOs, is that they will become a common practice, a lever used against anyone with whom one disagrees – or that they will become a commonly used tool in other judicial proceedings.

This is all more evidence for why NRA has repeatedly opposed laws that deprive law-abiding Americans of their civil rights without due process of law.

Gun control advocates have chosen Extreme Risk Protection Orders as a goal. Anti-gunners will happily sacrifice due process, which itself is often an afterthought in their anti-gun agenda – as is requiring treatment for those who need help.  The NRA is working across the country to ensure that due process rights are protected, that people can access the help they need, and that anti-gunners do not use ERPOs as a stepping stone to achieving their goal of an American population without the means to defend itself.

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