The State of Oregon needs to do more to make Oregonians aware of an important tool to reduce incidents of gun violence, including firearm-related suicides.
SALEM, OR—The State of Oregon needs to do more to make Oregonians aware of an important tool to reduce incidents of gun violence, including firearm-related suicides, according to the Oregon Audits Division.
The tool? Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or ERPOs.
That effort begins today with the division’s latest report release, an advisory report in the form of five “Frequently Asked Questions” about the ERPO process, who is involved, and whether the law is working as intended.*
“Gun violence is a serious and growing risk not only in Oregon, but nationwide,” said Audits Director Kip Memmott. “We have a tool and a process in our laws to protect people in those situations where we know the risk is heightened. But if Oregonians don’t know it’s available — or can’t use it — that’s a problem we need to fix.”
Oregon’s ERPO law establishes a process in the civil courts where the court, in response to a petition filed by a family member or member of law enforcement, can prohibit an individual at risk of hurting themselves or others from accessing deadly weapons. The intent of the law is to reduce gun violence in these high-risk, or “red flag,” situations. The process mostly involves local law enforcement and Oregon’s 36 circuit courts, but several state agencies — including the Oregon State Police and Judicial Department — also have important roles to play.
There is evidence ERPOs can be an effective tool, especially at lowering the risk of firearm-related suicide. Suicide attempts by firearm are much more lethal than other means, and most people who attempt suicide only do so once. For the last four years, the rate of firearm-related suicides in Oregon has been more than 40% higher than the national rate. Auditors looked at ERPO laws in 21 other states and the District of Columbia and found Oregon’s to be generally in line with best practices and model legislation.
Yet despite this evidence, auditors found ERPOs are not being used nearly as much as other kinds of protective orders. From 2018 to 2021, ERPOS made up less than 1% of all protective orders requested in Oregon. Auditors were unable to determine if these orders are working as intended because there needs to be more robust data, and no one is currently doing any review or evaluation into the law’s effectiveness at reducing gun violence in the state.
Auditors pointed out multiple barriers that may discourage people from seeking an ERPO. For one thing, the process to petition can be immensely time-consuming and may require petitioners to attend multiple court hearings. For another, petitioners may be unfamiliar with court forms and procedures. Language barriers could come into play — by statute, the form to request an ERPO must be filled out in English and court proceedings are conducted entirely in English.
Another barrier is simply a lack of awareness. According to the auditors, Oregon can do more to make people aware of ERPOs as an available tool, and train and educate law enforcement on the process so that ERPOs can work as effectively as possible.
Read the full advisory report on the Secretary of …
*Note: A distinction important to the Oregon Audits Division is that today’s report is not an audit, because the engagement didn’t fully comply with all Government Auditing Standards. However, the report and the information it contains can be treated with the same level of trust as an audit because it underwent the same rigorous quality assurance process.