NYS courts publish ‘red flag’ petitions, still few in Monroe County

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MONROE COUNTY, N.Y. — For the first time, we can see the number of requests and court orders to remove guns from a home.

The state court system published every Extreme Risk Protection Order. They’re called “ERPOs” or “red flag” petitions, and they remove guns from a person who threatened to hurt themselves or someone else.

The numbers show there wasn’t a single petition filed by anyone in Monroe County before the Buffalo Tops mass murder last year. Since then, there have been 74.

In 51 of the 74 cases, the courts in Monroe County allowed police to go into a home and temporarily take at least one gun.

In one case, police say a rifle appeared to be staged to ambush police.

The petition filed in the summer of 2022 said a man threatened to “burn down” his home and “shoot himself,” and it said a rifle was “staged in the room to use in an ambush attack of deputies.”

The ERPO was granted 14 days after it was filed.

The state court’s dashboard shows every ERPO since it started three years ago. The state averages 300 to 500 a month, but there are only one to five filed monthly in Monroe County.

Brean: “Do they work?”
Lisa Geller, Johns Hopkins’ Center for Gun Violence Solutions: “They do work.”

I reached Lisa Geller at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Gun Violence Solutions. She pointed to the ERPOs in Connecticut.

“That found that for every 10 to 20 ERPOs issued one suicide was prevented,” Geller said.

The majority of gun deaths in New York are suicides.

I showed Geller the ERPO track in New York and the sudden spike after May 2022.

“Right around the Tops mass murder in Buffalo,” I said, pointing to the chart. “Is that the only explanation you see for that increase?”

“After that shooting I think people became aware of Extreme Risk Protection Orders and that may explain why they were used more frequently,” Geller said.

Another reason? After Buffalo, the law allowed health care workers to file petitions.

Emma Cornell, Clinical Research, Northwell Health Center for Gun Violence Prevention: “One of the issues we’re running into is there’s no playbook for how to implement this.”

Emma Cornell is a researcher at Northwell Health near New York City. She says Northwell went to police in Suffolk County to learn how to file ERPOs.

Suffolk filed more than 1,800 ERPOs. But the health system still found it difficult for doctors and nurses who are busy in the ER.

“And when you think about patients, particularly in the emergency department, where you see a lot of folks who may be at a higher risk, the sheer volume that emergency department physicians see makes it really hard for them to go and sit down and do this paper work,” Cornell said.

Johns Hopkins is working on a solution for that.

In New York state, police, school principals and superintendents, family and household members and health care workers can file ERPOS.