In the midst of a growing national focus on Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), the Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) and The Joyce Foundation have announced key findings of a mixed-methods study to understand perceptions toward these laws. Results provide guidance for local and national organizations to drive more awareness and understanding of these laws where they are in place. The study also will serve as a cornerstone of the Ad Council’s expanded focus to further reduce gun violence in the United States, building upon existing efforts including the award-winning End Family Fire campaign.
"The issue of gun violence is one that impacts people in all corners of the United States. ERPOs can be another lifesaving tool in the states where they exist, but only if Americans understand them and know how to put them into action. This new research from the Ad Council Research Institute and The Joyce Foundation lays out a path to communicate this important message, one that we are eager to implement for future campaigns at the Ad Council, advancing our goals to reduce gun violence and save lives," said Lisa Sherman, President and CEO of the Ad Council.
ERPOs are temporary civil orders designed to prevent tragedies and protect those who are at a high and imminent risk of using a firearm to harm other people or themselves and do not result in a criminal record. The study surveyed the public, including gun owners, non-gun owners, veterans and law enforcement officials in the nineteen states and the District of Columbia with existing ERPO laws as of March 2023, assessing their knowledge and sentiment, as well as effective messaging to engage the public on the issue. Key findings include:
Results show that many Americans agree that ERPOs are part of a larger crisis response (67%) and see them as efforts to keep their communities safe (66%) from mass shootings (59%) and individuals safe from suicide (63%). However, the public and individuals in law enforcement in the states with existing ERPOs both need more information and resources to fully grasp the benefits of these laws -- 65% of the population and 78% of law enforcement surveyed agree that more details on how to start the process (e.g. who to initially go to) of filing an ERPO would be extremely or very helpful.
"There is a huge opportunity to ensure ERPOs are effective and this study proves that communications can make a substantial difference -- from what they are called to how those in crisis and the public can play an active role in working with law enforcement to help loved ones who may harm themselves or others," said Derrick Feldmann, lead researcher and managing director of ACRI and Ad Council Edge. "Awareness, along with the right language and framing around a process, implementation, and impact of ERPO laws in a nation where these laws vary from state to state could overcome significant barriers to their implementation and further acceptance. We’re eager to continue this research, empower local government agencies to utilize it and put our findings into action, ultimately preventing tragedies."
"For more than 25 years The Joyce Foundation has invested in gun violence prevention research, including research showing that ERPOs can save lives, but only when implemented and applied effectively," said Joyce Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform Program Director Tim Daly. "These research findings are an important step toward establishing a baseline of the public's knowledge and attitudes about these laws and, provides a roadmap to policy makers and practitioners to close gaps in the public's awareness of these laws to ensure they are utilized effectively and fairly."
Among other significant findings, the study revealed that many law enforcement officials have positive perceptions of these laws and see opportunity to build trust that may dispel some of the public’s concerns:
The study also found these laws should incorporate wording like "crisis intervention" and "temporary" when discussing and naming them, rather than "red flag," which ranked toward the bottom among respondents. Feedback on the message frames point to a desire for additional, deeper information on the process of ERPO laws—especially by state. This feedback will be used as the research team continues to hone the message frames for further testing and examines how to provide the depth of information respondents require. An updated report will be released in the coming months that will include additional research and an accompanying toolkit to equip organizations, government entities and others with key messaging and resources to effectively message around ERPOs.
As of March 2023, 19 states and the District of Columbia have ERPO laws to prevent a person who is at risk of violence to self (including suicide) or to others (including mass shootings) from purchasing or possessing firearms. The laws allow law enforcement -- and in some states, family members, health professionals, and school administrators -- to ask a civil court to temporarily block the person from buying a handgun, rifle or shotgun; and require the person to turn in any handgun, rifle or shotgun they already have.
To address the larger issue of gun violence in the United States and encourage both gun owners and non-gun owners to take specific actions to keep our communities safe, the Ad Council announced plans for a comprehensive communications approach to tackling the issue. On the heels of the nonprofit’s groundbreaking national COVID-19 Vaccine Education campaign and multi-faceted mental health initiative announcement, the Ad Council is evolving the coalition-based and multi-audience model to convene the advertising, media and business industries to address gun violence issues facing communities across the country. This new approach builds on the organization’s longstanding and successful End Family Fire campaign with Brady, which focuses on the dangers of unsecured guns, and will include new communications campaigns including efforts to increase public awareness and education of ERPOs.
This report provides a deeper look into ERPOs, how to effectively speak about these laws with the American public, and how to drive more awareness and understanding of them in the nineteen states and the District of Columbia with existing ERPO laws. Download it here.
About the Joyce Foundation: The Joyce Foundation is a private, nonpartisan philanthropy that invests in public policies and strategies to advance racial equity and economic mobility for the next generation in the Great Lakes region.
In 1993, the Joyce Foundation launched its Gun Violence Program (now known as the Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform Program), to build safe and just communities in the Great Lakes region. Support for gun violence prevention research has been a consistent through-line in the program’s grant making strategy, totaling more than $33 million in investments. These investments led to hundreds of scientific publications providing key insights into the nature of gun violence in the U.S. and its solutions, at a time when few other public or private funding sources were available for this type of research. A specific focus of this grant making in recent years has been to build the evidence base to inform the modern development of the ERPO policy, advance implementation efforts surrounding the policy, and to evaluate its effectiveness.
In 2011, the foundation helped found the Fund for a Safer Future (FSF), a collaborative of more than 35 funders from across the country focused on preventing gun violence, and in 2016 helped establish the Partnership for Safe and Peaceful Communities, a donor collaborative focused on reducing gun violence in Chicago.
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