O’Mara, Stephens invited to a White House meeting to discuss Extreme Risk Protection Order legislation

SPRINGFIELD, Aug. 23 — State Reps. Jennifer O’Mara, D-Delaware, and Todd Stephens, R-Montgomery, joined White House officials and state legislative leaders from throughout the country last week to discuss Extreme Risk Protection, or “red flag,” laws.

ERPO laws temporarily disarm people in crisis to disrupt spontaneous acts of violence that could quickly turn deadly. During the meeting, state lawmakers shared how they successfully passed ERPO laws, while O’Mara and Stephens discussed plans to advance their H.B. 1903 in the Pennsylvania legislature.

"I lost my father to gun suicide and I miss him every day. We knew something was wrong, but we couldn't do anything to help him,” O’Mara said. “Although my story is devastating, it’s sadly not unique. Sharing my experience with White House officials and other state lawmakers from across the country was an opportunity to show how gun violence can touch people’s lives in different ways, but we can work together to prevent tragedies like the one my family went through.”

“The mass shootings and alarming suicide rate across the country demonstrate the need for legislation like this to disarm those who pose a danger to themselves or others before they act,” Stephens said. “Our families and law enforcement need a way to temporarily prohibit those in crisis from possessing firearms, and to relinquish any firearms they may currently have, to prevent them from doing harm until they can get the help they need.”  

Under current Pennsylvania law, the only intervention available for loved ones to keep family members in crisis safe is a 302 involuntary commitment. An involuntary commitment has a very narrow scope and is a severe intervention method, depriving someone of their liberty, holding them against their will, away from their family, loved ones and job for up to 5 days with no due process. As a result, people are often reluctant to seek a 302 given the severe ramifications.

House Bill 1903 would provide a mechanism for loved ones, family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to hold a hearing to temporarily disarm someone in crisis. Residents can learn more about O’Mara’s and Stephens’ bill by visiting: https://www.legis.state.pa.us//cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20210&cosponId=35146.