For years, Minnesota allowed private sales of firearms without background checks, and offered no means by which law enforcement or family members could seek an emergency order to stop dangerous people from possessing a gun. That changed earlier this year when the Minnesota Legislature approved bills to expand background checks and implement an Extreme Risk Protection Order law. The ERPO law, also known as a red flag law, is set to go into effect in January, and it will allow family members, romantic partners, and law enforcement officers to petition a court for an order to seize guns from people deemed to be imminently dangerous, The Trace reports. Minnesota is the latest of 21 states to enact Extreme Risk Protection Order laws. The state moved on the heels of the 2022 Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, the first significant federal gun reform legislation in nearly 30 years. Though the law didn’t include a national ERPO measure, it did include funding incentives and support for states to enact and implement state-level versions. Minnesota was the first to take Congress up on that offer.
Though it doesn’t go into effect until 2024, state officials, lawmakers who authored the bill, and gun reform advocacy groups are already preparing for its implementation. They hope that setting a strong foundation and getting adequate infrastructure, resources, and support in place will help Minnesotans take full advantage of the law on Day One. As with many gun violence prevention policies, how the state’s ERPO is implemented will play a big role in determining whether it will be as effective in saving lives as its supporters hope. Studies suggest that ERPOs may reduce gun deaths, including in cases of threatened violence and potential mass shootings, with stronger evidence that they may reduce firearm suicides. While Minnesota has a lower gun death rate relative to other states, more than 600 Minnesotans still die every year by firearms. In 2021, suicides were 68 percent of the state’s gun deaths. “When we were talking about extreme risk protection orders and what that could look like in Minnesota, there’s a lot of gun violence that they can address, but for us, a lot of it was largely about firearm suicides and reducing firearm suicides here in our state,” Maggiy Emery, the executive director of Protect Minnesota, a gun violence prevention organization, said.