Family and Household Members

In 16 states, family and household members are eligible to petition for ERPOs when they are concerned about their family or household member accessing firearms. In all states, family members can play a critical role in ensuring the safety of individuals whose access to firearms may pose a threat to themselves or others.

Family and household members possess unique information about a loved one or cohabitant’s wellbeing, firearm access, and potential signs that they may be in crisis. By petitioning for an ERPO, family and household members can prevent an instance of gun violence from happening to and/or being perpetrated by their loved one or cohabitant before it occurs. Because ERPOs are civil processes and are not intended to involve the respondent in the criminal justice system, they can be a good tool for those with personal relationships to the respondent, such as family and household members, to use when they wish to intervene in a high-risk situation before it escalates without implicating the person they have a relationship with in the criminal justice system.

When ready to file a petition, family and household members can expect the court to ask for information such as: evidence of the respondent’s risk of harming themselves or others using a firearm; the nature of the petitioner’s relationship with the respondent; and the number, style, and location of the respondent’s firearms, among other things. Though every state is different, the categories of family and household members able to petition for ERPOs typically includes: those related by blood, marriage, or adoption; dating or domestic partners; people with whom the respondent has a child in common or any type of legal or biological parent-child relationship; and those with whom the respondent has resided within the last year.

In states with ERPOs that do not include family or household members as eligible petitioners, family and household members still have an important role to play in helping to identify when someone they live with is at risk of harming themselves or others using a firearm. Family or household members in these states can instead engage directly with their local law enforcement agency to request an officer petition for an ERPO using the information they provide about the respondent and their firearms.