LD 1884: An Act to Create a Community Protection Order

Senate Sponsors:
Mark Dion (D-Cumberland)
Dawn Hill (D-York)
Amy Volk (R-Scarborough)
Lisa Keim (R-Dixfield)

House Sponsors:
Speaker Sara Gideon (D-Freeport)
Rachel Talbot Ross (D-Portland)
Richard Malaby (R-Hancock)
Bruce Bickford (R-Auburn)
Beth O'Connor (R-Berwick)
Karen Vachon (R-Scarborough

Link to full text of the bill

PDF of this resource

What is proposed by this bill?

The bill authorizes judges to temporarily suspend access to firearms by a person in emotional crisis by issuing a Community Protection Order (CPO). In many cases of gun violence, such as mass shootings and suicide, the shooter exhibits warning signs before tragedy occurs. For example, the Parkland gunman was long known to law enforcement as troubled and a threat, but law enforcement was powerless to intervene. If Florida had a CPO law, 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School might still be alive.

What is a Community Protection Order?

A CPO empowers families and law enforcement to prevent tragedies and save lives. This tool allows family members and law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to firearms if there is documented evidence that an individual poses a serious threat of violence to themselves or others. Family members and law enforcement are often in the best position to recognize the warning signs of violence and creating a CPO will provide a tool to prevent a tragedy before it’s too late.

Why are Community Protection Orders needed?

More people die in Maine from suicide than homicide, with someone dying from suicide every 39 hours.[1] In Maine, suicide is the second leading cause of death for individuals ages 15-34. Most individuals who commit suicide and mass shootings exhibit signs of their intentions, but current laws prevent families who are the first to notice warning signs from taking life-saving action.

Between 2005 and 2014, Maine’s firearm suicide rate was 8.0 per 100,000. The rate at which Maine residents commit suicide with a gun is more than four times the rate in Massachusetts, and three times the rates in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

More than half of completed suicides in Maine are by gun. Suicides attempted with a firearm are lethal 82.5% of the time, compared to less than 3% by drug overdose, the most commonly used method to attempt suicide.[2] Suicide is often an impulsive decision and 90% of people who survive suicide attempts don’t go on to kill themselves.[3] Temporarily removing firearms from a person in crisis can prevent tragedies because when a gun is present, there are no second chances.

Maine’s suicide and domestic violence homicide problems are closely linked. In a review of selected cases between 2011 and 2015, the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel found that most homicides were committed with a firearm and that nine of the sixteen perpetrators threatened suicide prior to or after committing homicide.[4] 80% of people considering suicide give some sign of their intentions,[5] and 38 out of the 62 mass shooters in the last 20 years were reported as displaying signs of dangerous mental health problems prior to the killings.[6] Community Protection Orders provide an opportunity to intervene before it is too late.

 What other states have a similar law?

In 1999, Connecticut became the first state to adopt a risk-based firearm removal law. Additional states that have laws authorizing law enforcement to remove guns from someone identified as a danger to themselves or others include California, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Oregon, Texas, and Washington State. On March 9, 2018, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a “red flag” bill into law.

Does it work?

Yes. States with similar laws have seen positive results and lives are being saved. According to a 2016 study, for every 10.5 guns collected under Connecticut’s risk-based firearm removal law between 1999 and 2013, one person was stopped from taking his or her own life.[7] Law enforcement found and removed guns in 99% of cases where they conducted a search, removing an average of seven guns per risk-warrant subject. Another benefit was that many of the individuals in crisis obtained mental health and/or substance abuse treatment they might otherwise not have received. The study concludes that the law effectively targets high-risk individuals without inconveniencing responsible gun owners.

The Consortium for Risk-based Firearm Policy, a group of the nation’s leading experts in mental health, public health, and gun violence prevention, strongly recommends that states implement CPOs to prevent suicides. For each suicide death prevented by this law, Maine will save $1,134,885 in medical expenses and work loss.[8]

How does a CPO work?

The CPO is intentionally modeled on our well-established Protection from Abuse (PFA) orders with careful protections for due process and standards for evidence. This bill provides for temporary orders, which expire after 21 days, and for extended orders, which expires after 180 days.

After a family member or law enforcement files a petition, the court holds a hearing with petitioners and witnesses under oath to determine whether the person poses a serious threat of violence to themselves or others. If the court finds that the individual is a significant danger to self or others, AND a CPO is necessary to prevent harm to self or others, then the individual will be required to temporarily surrender firearms and will be temporarily prohibited from purchasing another firearm.

Community Protection Orders Save Lives

Gaps in our gun laws continue to leave Mainers vulnerable to gun-related tragedies. CPOs can save lives by giving law enforcement and family members a vital tool to prevent tragedies before a shot is ever fired. No one law will prevent every act of gun violence, and CPOs are designed to be used rarely and in only the most extreme situations, but we owe it to our children to provide law enforcement with another tool to keep our communities safe.

[1] “Suicide: Maine 2016 Facts and Figures,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2016

[2] Rebecca Spicer and Ted Miller, “Suicide Acts in 8 States: Incidence and Case Fatality Rates by Demographics and Method,” American Journal of Public Health, December 2000

[3] Madeline Drexler, “Guns & Suicide: The Hidden Toll,” Harvard Public Health, 2014

[4] “On the Path of Prevention: The 11th Biennial Report of the Maine Domestic Abuse Homicide Review Panel,” June 2016

[5] “Suicide,” Mental Health America

[6] “Extreme Risk Protection Orders,” Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

[7] Jeffrey Swanson, et al., “Implementation and Effectiveness of Connecticut's Risk-Based Gun Removal Law: Does it Prevent Suicides?” Law and Contemporary Problems, August 2016

[8] “Suicide: Maine 2016 Facts and Figures,” American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 2016