As a healthcare provider, you cannot petition directly for an ERPO, but you can advise patients and their family members about ERPO and its protections. ERPO is a civil procedure. It creates a temporary restriction on firearm access to provide some breathing room for those in distress who may be in danger of harming themselves or others.
What is the role of a healthcare provider?
Although healthcare providers are not eligible to file ERPO petitions in Massachusetts, here are some things you can do to help.
You can work with the petitioner to support them through the process, including aiding in filling out the forms. If the petitioner is using a lawyer, you can volunteer to speak with the lawyer to support the case. If you do not have the capacity to assist with the process of petitioning, refer them to a social worker or case manager that can provide ongoing support as they go through the steps of requesting the ERPO.
In all cases when a firearm is present in the home, even when there is not imminent risk, educating patients and families about safe storage is critical. Have literature about safe storage, as well as gun locks, available to your patients and their families.
How do you file an ERPO?
Before you get to court, the petitioner must first fill out a Petition for Extreme Risk Protection Order (FS-1) Once in court, the Petitioner also files a Confidential Information Form (FS-2) and a Respondent Information Form (FS-3) See attachment. See more detail in FAQs. ERPO forms are also available in all District Court and Boston Municipal Court (BMC) clerk’s offices.
More on filing:
If the petitioner is asking for an order during court business hours, he/she should file a petition in the clerk’s office in the District Court location or BMC location for the city or town where the respondent lives.
If he/she is asking for an order during non-court business hours, he/she should go to the police station in the city or town where the respondent lives and inform the police that he/she would like to file a petition for an ERPO. If he/she cannot do this, go to a local police station.
What happens next?
The judge may issue an ERPO right away, or might schedule a hearing. The petitioner and her/his lawyer, if the petitioner decides to have one, should attend this hearing. It must be established that it is more likely than not that the respondent poses a risk of hurting him/herself or others by controlling, owning or possessing a gun or ammunition. If an ERPO is issued after a full hearing, it will be in effect for one year, or less, as ordered by the judge.
After an ERPO is terminated or expires, a license to possess/carry firearms will be reinstated, and any surrendered items will be returned, unless the police department where the respondent lives determines that the respondent is not suitable to be licensed and to possess or carry firearms, or unless another ERPO petition is filed and granted.
How you can help/ steps to take
Example: A patient is concerned about themselves, or someone whom they are close to, who has a gun. You can explain the option of filing for an ERPO, help talk them through the steps of filing an ERPO themselves or via law enforcement, talk through the potential outcomes in different scenarios. The highest number of deaths from gun violence involve firearm suicide so it is important to note that ERPO laws can help individuals who might be suicidal in addition to those at risk of harming others with a firearm.
Frequently Asked Questions
- 61% of deaths from gun violence are suicides
- Guns are used in 51% of suicides in America
- Access to gun triples the risk of suicide death
- A recent study examined the results of a law in Connecticut similar to California’s GVRO and estimated that for every 10 to 20 orders removing firearms issued, at least one suicide was prevented.
- 58 percent of American adults or someone they care for have experienced gun violence in their lifetime.
Find out more on our Resources Page.