By: Follow South Jersey Staff
SOUTH JERSEY — According to the New Jersey Gun Violence Research Center at Rutgers University, the state averages 475 firearm deaths each year which ranks as the third-lowest rate of firearm deaths and the fourth-most-stringent gun-safety laws in the country. New Jersey also has the lowest rate of firearm ownership with guns in 8.9% of households.
The Extreme Risk Protective Order (ERPO) Act, better known as a red flag law, was signed into law in New Jersey in September 2019. This law authorizes New Jersey courts to issue gun violence protective orders against people who pose a significant threat to themselves or others by possessing a firearm.
A family or household member, or a law enforcement officer can apply for an order against an individual who presents a significant danger of bodily injury to themselves or to others by possessing or purchasing a firearm. Once the ERPO is issued, the respondent is prohibited from purchasing a firearm or ammunition and is prohibited 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,” Camden County Commissioner Louis Cappelli Jr. said in a press release from the county. “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 ERPO Act was being utilized with judges approving requests more than once per day on average, according to a 2019 report by WHYY. However, the Board of Commissioners and Moms Demand Action, a grassroots organization fighting to protect people from gun violence, believe that not enough New Jerseyans know about this law.
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,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. “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.”
Watts founded Moms Demand Action in 2012, after creating a Facebook group following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. Moms Demand Action has established a volunteer chapter in every U.S. state and Washington, D.C. The group is also part of Everytown for Gun Safety, the largest gun violence prevention organization in the country with nearly 10 million supporters. Most recently, Watts was 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 said. “Often times 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, 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 with the court. Family members include:
- A spouse, domestic partner, or partner in a civil union couple.
- A former spouse, domestic partner, or partner in a civil union couple.
- A present or previous household member.
- Any co-parent or guardian of a child in common.
- Anyone who is expecting a child with the alleged individual.
- A current or former dating partner.
Law enforcement agents are also able to file a petition directly with the court.
For more information on how to file an ERPO request, visit: www.njcourts.gov/self-help/firearm-removal.
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