Fri, Sep 1, 2023 7:00 AM
By Tom Joyce, The Center Square
State auditors examining a gun violence prevention tool called Extreme Risk Protection Orders could not determine if the orders are working as intended due to a lack of data, the Oregon Audits Division says.
As a result, Oregon is trying to make more residents aware of their ability to petition for the orders.
The effort began this week, starting 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," according to the release.
“Gun violence is a serious and growing risk not only in Oregon but nationwide,” Audits Director Kip Memmott said. “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.”
The state's ERPO law created a process for civil courts to stop an at-risk individual from accessing firearms if a family member or member of law enforcement files a petition with the court.
"The intent of the law is to reduce gun violence in these high-risk, or 'red flag,' situations," the release said. "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."
The Audits division says the law's primary purpose is stopping firearm-related suicide.
It also notes that suicide by firearm attempts cause more deaths than other methods, and most people only attempt suicide once.
"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," the release said.
However, the auditors say ERPOs are not being used as much as in other states; they comprise under 1% of all protective orders in the state.
In the report, auditors said the time it takes to file a petition, including requirements to attend multiple court hearings, can prevent people from capitalizing on the law. Plus, they note that language barriers are a potential problem, as forms and court proceedings are in English.
A lack of awareness of the laws is also a barrier, the release said.
"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," the release said.
One can read the full advisory report here.