Skip to content

Examples of How Extreme Risk Laws Save Lives

Appendix A

4.17.2020

Last Updated: 7.7.2021

Download PDF

Introduction

The following examples illustrate the use of Extreme Risk laws—sometimes referred to as “red flag” laws—to temporarily remove firearms from dangerous situations. When a person is in crisis and considering harming themselves or others, family members and law enforcement are often the first people to see the warning signs. These laws are designed to be a tool to defuse dangerous situations while also providing due process and a system of checks and balances.

Everytown compiled these cases from media reports and publicly available databases. The examples are presented by intent and by year, when known. While they do not cover every case in which a judge granted an order under an Extreme Risk law, these instances provide important examples of the vital role Extreme Risk laws can play in preventing people in crisis from accessing firearms.

Danger Of Harming Others

2022 | ERIE COUNTY, NY

An extreme risk protection order was filed by New York State Police after a man brandished a handgun in a road rage incident and police discovered a loaded “ghost gun” during a search of the man’s car. After State police obtained the temporary extreme risk protection order, they found two assault weapons, two large capacity ammunition devices, and several ghost gun kits during a search of his home.1“Grand Island man indicted on gun charges in connection to road rage incident on the I-190,” 7KWBW Buffalo, October 17, 2022, https://bit.ly/3s0TT1I

2022 | PALM BEACH COUNTY, FL

A Florida judge issued an extreme risk protection order filed by law enforcement against an 80 year-old man who was threatening to shoot people walking on the beach in front of his home. According to Palm Beach Police, this individual had called them 550 times to report individuals that he claimed were trespassing on the property; the last time he called the police, he was threatening to kill the people walking near his property.2 “State seizes gun from Palm Beach man who threatened to shoot people on beach in front of house,” WPBF 25 West Palm Beach, September 22, 2022, https://bit.ly/3LzSjNk

2022 | LEE COUNTY, FL

An extreme risk protection order was filed by Lee County Sheriff’s Office against an 18-year-old male who was involved in the death of a 17-year-old girl who died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The weapon used was a ghost gun owned by the 18-year-old man, and he admitted to the responding officer that he assembles firearms in his home. He was already on juvenile probation for unlawful possession of a firearm at the time of the shooting. During the investigation, deputies found video evidence of him aiming what appeared to be a loaded gun at a friend. A judge approved the risk protection order.3“Judge ratifies risk protection order against 18-year-old following fatal shooting,” NBC2 News, August 8, 2022,  https://bit.ly/3AonSWn

2022 | PINELLAS COUNTY, FL

An extreme risk protection order was granted by the Pinellas County Courts after a man was caught holding an AR-9 while behaving aggressively toward Black landscapers near his property. The man’s guns were confiscated on July 27, 2022. The Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney is reviewing the case to determine if criminal charges will be filed against the man.4Florida man has guns seized after threatening Black landscapers with rifle,” Orlando Weekly, August 2, 2022, https://bit.ly/3pn1O8r

2022 | KING COUNTY, WA

An emergency extreme risk protection order was filed by the Seattle police department after a man had allegedly threatened to kill Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal. The man was arrested outside the congresswoman’s property in Washington after he was reported to have yelled obscene and threatening comments and was armed with his .40 caliber handgun. The order required the man to turn in his firearms and concealed pistol license.5Man who allegedly threatened to kill U.S. Rep. Pramila Jayapal released from jail,” The Seattle Times, July 13, 2022, https://bit.ly/3QlPWzy

2021 | ALAMOSA COUNTY, CO

An emergency risk protection order was filed by a man’s family members. After law enforcement completed a background check and reviewed dispatch calls from the State Patrol, a petition was compiled and submitted to the District Attorney. Around the time the petition was submitted to the court, the individual was arrested at a store for threatening people. A court issued an emergency ERPO and scheduled a hearing to determine whether a final order should be issued.6“Colorado’s Red Flag Law one year later. How did it go?” The Crestone Eagle, September, 2021, https://bit.ly/3b2ilaQ 

2020 | DOUGLAS COUNTY, CO

A judge granted an order against a man in his sixties who had a history of concerning behavior. The man had repeatedly called police to his home claiming to have been shot or that hitmen were in his bedroom. He often dressed in law enforcement gear and questioned neighbors. He had also bragged about shooting someone and sent his ex-wife threatening text messages. After obtaining the order, sheriffs removed 59 guns and 50,000 rounds of ammunition from his possession.7Elise Schmelzer and Shelley Bradley, “Colorado’s Red Flag Law Iis One Year Old. Here’s Who’s Using the Law to Confiscate Guns — and Why,” Denver Post, January 10, 2021, https://dpo.st/3vs60Vr; Christopher Osher and Evan Wyloge, “Colorado ‘Red Flag’ Law Shows Some Success, but Inconsistent Use,” Colorado Springs Gazette, March 28, 2021, https://bit.ly/3z0LgGU.

2019 | MERCER COUNTY, NJ

Police received an anonymous tip expressing concerns about a 27-year-old man who had made multiple alarming posts on Facebook, including one threatening to attack a local Walmart. Police and the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office obtained an order, and police removed seven guns and numerous rounds of ammunition from two separate apartments.8Joe Brandt, “Princeton Man Posted aAbout Bringing His AR-15 Rifle to Walmart, So Cops Seized All His Guns,” NJ.com, November 11, 2019, https://bit.ly/36X6PK6.

2018 | MONROE, WA

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office obtained an order against a 20-year-old man. who claimed to be a member of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), posted on social media about killing Jews in a synagogue and kids in a school. In one post, he reportedly wrote that he was “shooting for 30 Jews,” and in another post he wrote about replicating the actions of the white supremacist who shot and killed nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Sheriffs removed 12 guns from his home.9Caleb Hutton, “Monroe Man Gets 1 Year in Jail for Threats to Massacre Jews,” HeraldNet (Everett, Washington), June 5, 2019, https://bit.ly/2ZsXz0z; Caleb Hutton, “Monroe Man Charged in Killing Plot: ‘I’m Shooting for 30 Jews,’” HeraldNet (Everett, Washington), April 8, 2019, http://bit.ly/2lBYXus.

2018 | BROWARD COUNTY, FL

Courthouse employees notified law enforcement after a Broward County bailiff simulated shooting people from the fifth-floor atrium and called them “easy prey.” Following a hearing, a judge ordered 67 firearms, including an AR-15, to be removed from the bailiff’s home for a one-year period.10Jessica Lipscomb, “Florida’s Post-Parkland ‘Red Flag’ Law Has Taken Guns from Dozens of Dangerous People,” Miami New Times, August 7, 2018, https://bit.ly/2ORW56U.

2018 | SAN DIEGO, CA

A 79-year-old man allegedly shot a city worker and was placed in custody. Police were concerned about the man having access to firearms if he were to be released on bail, and they requested and received an order. Police removed an AR-15 with a 200-round drum magazine, 34 other rifles, and 21 handguns from his home.11City News Service, “Man Who Shot City Worker Had a Cache of Guns, Explosives, Prosecutors Say,” Fox 5 News, September 14, 2018, https://bit.ly/349rIkl; San Diego City Attorney Mara W. Elliott, “Man Who Shot City Worker Had Weapons Stockpile,” September 14, 2018, http://bit.ly/2kgb9Bb.

c. 2016-2018 | CALIFORNIA

The California Department of Justice was warned about a 21-year-old man who threatened to shoot his coworkers after he was fired. It was discovered that he had recently purchased a shotgun, but due to California’s 10-day waiting period, the sale had not yet been completed. A temporary order was granted that ultimately blocked the sale, and police found 400 rounds of shotgun ammunition in his home. After a hearing that man participated in, a judge determined a final one-year order should be issued.12Wintemute et al., “Extreme Risk Protection Orders Intended to Prevent Mass Shootings.”

Danger Of Gunfire In Schools

2022 | GRAFTON COUNTY, VT

An extreme risk protection order was filed by Essex County State’s Attorney after a man threatened to come to his child’s school and kill people if drag queens or transgender students approached his child. The threats motivated the Canaan high school and elementary school to shut down for the remaining two days of the school year. While Vermont State Police did not find any weapons at his home, the man voiced his desire to purchase an AK-47 assault style rifle to police. The extreme risk protection order was granted and prohibits the man from purchasing or possessing weapons for six months.13“Canaan parent cited transgender people in threat against school, court documents show,” VTDigger, June 15, 2022, https://bit.ly/3QAssq4

2020 | LARIMER COUNTY, CO

A judge granted an emergency order against a 32-year-old man after he sent texts threatening to commit two school shootings to his adoptive father. The man, a military veteran, conveyed in the text messages that he had trouble finding work and that if his adoptive parents did not stop demanding repayment of money he owed them, he would “kill a lot of people.” Although police found no firearms in his home when they executed the order, the man had communicated plans to buy two firearms. After a hearing at which he appeared with counsel, a judge issued a final order prohibiting him from purchasing or possessing firearms.14Sady Swanson, “Red Flag Petition Granted for Larimer County Man Accused of Threatening Mass Shooting,” Fort Collins Coloradoan, May 28, 2020, https://bit.ly/2S0LWuL.

2018 | PORTLAND, OR

A judge granted a petition for a man who posed for photos with a semi-automatic rifle and had spoken openly about planning a school shooting.15Friedman, “Shots Not Fired.”

2018 | MIDDLEBURY, VT

Two students at Middlebury Union Middle School were planning to shoot another student on campus and “anyone else.” Another student overheard this conversation and notified the school principal, who then called the police. One of the students was planning to get the guns from a relative. Prosecutors obtained an emergency 14-day order and removed 10 weapons from the relative’s home to which the student said he had access to.16Lucia I. Suarez Sang, “Attentive Student Foiled Possible School Shooting, Vermont Police Say,” Fox News, December 19, 2018, https://fxn.ws/2Fs65Bd; Spencer Conlin, “Middlebury Police Chief Defends Weapons
Seizure Over Alleged Shooting Plot,” myChamplainValley.com, December 19, 2018, https://bit.ly/2RJPPBX.

2018 | ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FL

A high school student was stalking his ex-girlfriend after she broke up with him. At one point he attempted to punch a boy who was with her. The student also threatened to post private photos of the girl on social media, threatened suicide if she didn’t get back together with him, and posted photos of an AR-15 online. Two resource officers submitted affidavits for a petition against him, and all the firearms were removed from his home.17Emma Kennedy, “Tate Student’s AR-15, Father’s 54 Guns Removed under New Red Flag Law,” Pensacola News Journal, July 9, 2018, https://bit.ly/2UHmaba.

c. 2016-2018 | CALIFORNIA

A 21-year-old man posted statements online threatening his former high school. Two different acquaintances reported these posts to police, with one person reporting a post that appeared to show the man holding an AR-type rifle. The school was closed the following day. A temporary ex parte order was obtained, and a full order was issued after a hearing.18Wintemute et al., “Extreme Risk Protection Orders.”

Domestic Violence

2020 | RIFLE, CO

A 36-year-old police officer with a history of domestic violence became upset after learning a fellow officer was moving to another agency. After drinking heavily and arguing with his ex-wife, he grabbed a handgun and threatened suicide if his ex-wife tried to leave the house. He also threatened suicide if his ex-wife or their children called the police. The following day, police obtained an emergency order requiring him to surrender all of his firearms.19Stephanie Butzer, “Red Flag Petition Approved After Rifle Man Allegedly Threatened to Kill Himself, Ex-wife, Children,” Denver 7, May 1, 2020, https://bit.ly/3vub6Rc.

2020 | DENVER, CO

At the end of 2019, a 26-year-old man voluntarily turned over his firearms to Denver police during a domestic violence investigation. The man was suspected of beating his wife and had made suicidal statements on numerous occasions when talking with police. One day after Colorado’s Extreme Risk law took effect in 2020, a judge granted an order allowing police to temporarily keep the man’s guns as the investigation continued.20Marshall Zelinger, “First Known Case Using Colorado’s New Red Flag Law Filed in Denver,” KUSA TV, January 3, 2020, https://bit.ly/38S4ws7.

2018 | BROOKINGS, OR

The day after learning his wife was leaving him, a 35-year-old man went out and purchased a handgun. After returning home with the gun and consuming alcohol, he began arguing with his wife. As the argument escalated, he took out the gun. His wife made a phone call to another man, letting him know her husband would not let her leave. Her husband then, threatened to kill the other man. Police arrived minutes later and the man relinquished his handgun. The next morning, a judge issued an order preventing the man from purchasing or possessing firearms for one year.21Friedman, “Shots Not Fired.”

2018 | LA JOLLA, CA

Law enforcement obtained an order against a 40-year-old man who texted his fiancée saying he wanted to shoot her in the head and threatened her ex-boyfriend while armed with a knife. Law enforcement removed a handgun and an assault-style rifle from his possession. 22Littlefield, “10 San Diego Residents Under Court Orders.”

2018 | MID-CITY, CA

A 33-year-old man locked his wife in a car with him and began to threaten her with a loaded firearm. Police found two loaded firearms that did not belong to him in the car. Law enforcement obtained an order and removed the two handguns from his possession.23Dana Littlefield, “10 San Diego Residents Under Court Orders to Give up Their Guns,” The San Diego Union-Tribune, February 16,2018, https://bit.ly/2VZfENw.

2018 | SUNRISE, FL

A 47-year-old man admitted his plans to kill his estranged wife, her sister, and his pastor to his church congregation. After a hearing, a judge granted an order requiring the removal of the man’s handgun and relinquishment of his concealed-weapons license.24Lipscomb, “Florida’s Post-Parkland ‘Red Flag’ Law.”

Danger Of Self-harm

2021 | REDMOND, WA

An emergency risk protection order was filed against a man following repeated threats to harm himself. After he had turned over four pistols and a semiautomatic rifle to a family friend, his wife later learned that he had purchased a new semiautomatic Smith & Wesson 9 mm handgun but was unable to retrieve it due to Washington state’s law that gives background check operators 10-days to complete the check. His wife then contacted a family friend who worked at the King County Sheriff’s Office, seeking help obtaining an ERPO against her husband. The Sheriff’s office petitioned the court and received a final one-year extreme risk protection order prohibiting the man from buying or having guns.25“How Richard Sherman’s family, police and a gun dealer intervened to prevent potential tragedy,” The Seattle Times, August 5, 2021 https://bit.ly/30Icntw

2021 | BELLEVUE, WA

An emergency risk protection order was filed by a police officer after the man had disappeared from a family reunion and was experiencing paranoia. After a judge granted the emergency ERPO to restrict access to firearms for 14 days, the man’s father and brother testified in support of a final one-year ERPO. The man surrendered a revolver, two semi-automatic handguns, a hunting rifle and his concealed pistol license.26“Washington voters led much of the nation in saying guns must sometimes be seized to prevent violence. How’s the law working?” The Seattle Times, June 1, 2021 https://bit.ly/3jtfxrI

2020 | BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, IN

A woman contacted the sheriff’s office after her husband made repeated comments about harming himself or using a firearm to provoke others to harm him. After investigating, law enforcement used the law to remove 20 firearms from the home.27“20 Guns Confiscated fFrom Bartholomew County Man uUnder Indiana’s Red Flag Law,” WTTV, July 13, 2020, https://bit.ly/3gLEvSt. 

2020 | VIRGINIA BEACH, VA

Police obtained an order after a man threatened to shoot himself in his ex-girlfriend’s driveway, following their break up. Police retrieved a loaded gun from his car.28Graham Moomaw, “Pro-gun Localities Accounted for Nearly Half of Virginia’s Red Flag Orders in Law’s First Months,” Virginia Mercury, October 6, 2020, https://bit.ly/3gS6iB3.  

2020 | MONTCLAIR, VA

A 33-year-old man entered another person’s home and was unable to tell police what he was doing there. Police learned from his wife that he was experiencing mental health challenges and had been exhibiting “paranoid and delusional” behavior. Police obtained an emergency order and removed six firearms, including an assault-style rifle.29Daniel Berti, “More Than 20 Guns Removed From Prince William, Manassas Residents So Far Via ‘Red Flag’ Law,” Prince William Times, February 25, 2021, https://bit.ly/32YwlOu.  

2019 | CRANSTON, RI

Two days before Christmas, a concerned individual contacted police regarding a text message they had received, which contained an image of a man holding a firearm in a position that was threatening suicide. Police officers subsequently went to the man’s house, where he told the officers he had a firearm in the home and was intending to die by suicide. Police then obtained an order to temporarily remove the man’s firearm.30Katherine Gregg and Brian Amaral, “Police: RI‘s Red Flag Law ‘Likely Averted Potential Tragedies,’” Providence Journal, December 30, 2019, https://bit.ly/2RF2gyE.

2019 | NEW LEBANON, NY

Police arrested a 51-year-old man for illegally possessing a firearm and for shooting a car. Following his arraignment, the man made statements regarding self-harm, prompting authorities to obtain an emergency order. Police removed a handgun and seven long guns from the man’s possession. The man waived his right to the final hearing, agreeing to comply with a judge’s order requiring the removal of his firearms for one year.31Bob Fredericks, “Man Becomes First to Lose Guns under New York’s ‘Red Flag’ Law,” New York Post, September 13, 2019, https://bit.ly/37NqPPS.

2018 | ROSEVILLE, CA

An individual called police about a relative who was threatening suicide with a gun in his home. After trying for hours to get the man to come out with no success, police obtained an order and the man relinquished his firearms.32Koseff, “‘Best Tool’ to Prevent Gun Violence.”

Read Appendix B: Extreme Risk Laws By State

Everytown Research & Policy is a program of Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund, an independent, non-partisan organization dedicated to understanding and reducing gun violence. Everytown Research & Policy works to do so by conducting methodologically rigorous research, supporting evidence-based policies, and communicating this knowledge to the American public.

The Latest