Extreme Risk Protection Orders

Extreme Risk Protection Orders empower families to prevent tragedies and save lives.

Extreme Risk Protection Orders will allow families and law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that an individual is 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 for up to one year.

What are Extreme Risk Protection Orders and Initiative 1491?

Washington State has taken important steps to keep guns out of dangerous hands — people convicted of a felony, domestic abusers and other prohibited purchasers may not possess firearms. But there are still gaps in our law that make it hard to keep guns away from people threatening violence against themselves or others. We know that the vast majority of mass shooters and individuals who commit suicide show signs of their intentions, but our law renders families — often the first to see those signs — unable to take life saving action.

Putting Initiative 1491 on this November’s ballot will change that.

Initiative 1491 is a 2016 Washington State Initiative to allow family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that the person poses a serious threat to themselves or others. We know that family members and law enforcement are often in the best position to see the warning signs of violence and, by creating Extreme Risk Protection Orders, Initiative 1491 will give them a tool to prevent a tragedy before it happens.

Initiative 1491 must receive over 340,000 valid signatures by July 8th, 2016 to appear on the November general election ballot. Washingtonians across the state are gathering signatures to make that happen.

How Will Extreme Risk Protection Orders Work?

Extreme Risk Protection Orders are modeled on our well-established systems of Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Protection Orders with careful protections for 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. The judge can issue an order restricting access to firearms for up to one year and can also refer the person in crisis for evaluation to ensure they get the help they need. Once a petition is filed, the court notifies the subject and a hearing is held. If the evidence of a threat is upheld by a judge, the order is put in place for one year and can be renewed annually should circumstances warrant. The subject may request one hearing a year to rescind the order. Violation of the order carries a criminal penalty.

Who Supports Extreme Risk Protection Orders?

“Extreme Risk Protection Orders can be an important tool for police officers who see the impact of gun violence on a daily basis, and to family members who see early warning signs of violent behavior up close.” — Assistant Chief Robert Merner, Seattle Police Department

Extreme Risk Protection Orders have support from leaders in law enforcement, public health, mental health, domestic violence prevention, survivors, faith leaders, and members of a diverse coalition. Organizations that testified in support of Extreme Risk Protection Orders in the Legislature include the Washington Association of Police Chiefs and Sheriffs, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and more.

What Kind of Incidents Could Extreme Risk Protection Orders Stop?

Survivors and family members of those killed in mass shootings at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle in 2006, Seattle’s Cafe Racer in 2012, University of California Santa-Barbara in 2014, and others have all testified that they believe this type of law could have been used to prevent these tragedies. But mass shootings aren’t the only tragedies that Extreme Risk Protection Orders could prevent. Just as importantly, suicides, romantic partner shootings, and individual family tragedies today could be prevented. Extreme Risk Protection Orders empower those in the best position to see a tragedy coming — family members and law enforcement — to prevent it. Hear from survivors of people lost in incidents that Extreme Risk Protection Orders could have prevented:

Family Violence

“If Extreme Risk Protection Orders had been law in 2015 I believe Brianna and James would be alive, and I would have had more time to get my son the help he needed.” — Marilyn Balcerak


Zoe Ann’s daughter Dana was a successful writer who struggled with depression. As her daughter’s crisis worsened into threats of suicide, Zoe pleaded with the police to temporarily remove her daughter’s guns, but there was nothing anyone could do until she attempted to harm herself. Within weeks, Zoe’s daughter died by suicide using a firearm.

Mass Shootings

Jane’s niece Veronika was a Washington native starting her first year at University of California, Santa Barbara. She was one of six people killed when a troubled young man with deep-seated rage against women went on a violent rampage in the streets of Isla Vista. In response to his parents’ imminent fears, police conducted a wellness check on the shooter, but he was able to hide his intentions and avoid being placed on an involuntary hold. He kept his firearms and attacked three weeks later.

Resources For Initiative 1491

Social Media Graphics for Initiative 1491