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New Study Reveals Current Knowledge & Attitudes Toward Extreme Risk Protection Orders and Provides States with a Playbook to Inform the Public

The report from the Ad Council Research Institute and The Joyce Foundation comes at a time when 21 states and Washington, DC have extreme risk protection orders in place

New York, NY (August 10, 2023) – As more states in the US begin to adopt their own Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), a new study from the Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) and The Joyce Foundation uncovers the public’s awareness of and attitudes toward these laws in the states where they are in place. Though awareness of these laws is relatively high (65%), only a small percentage (7%) of the public is very familiar with them and could be in a place to effectively utilize them if needed. The report also provides a communications toolkit with state-specific findings and resources to help local and national organizations drive actionable understanding of ERPOs.

Though the laws differ by state, 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, without resulting in a criminal record. Encapsulating four phases of qualitative and quantitative research methods between October 2022 and June 2023, the study interviewed and surveyed more than 10,000 individuals – including gun owners, non-gun owners, veterans and law enforcement officials – in the 19 states and the District of Columbia with existing ERPO laws. Since the start of the study, two more states have passed ERPO laws.

Assessing their knowledge and attitudes, as well as effective messaging to build deeper understanding, the report and toolkit provides a deeper look into ERPOs, who is considered a trusted source to deliver this information, message framing that resonates with the public and resources to drive more awareness and understanding of these laws.

Promisingly, results show that sentiments toward ERPO laws are consistently positive once provided more information about them. Based on the law description tested, 75% of respondents overall were positive towards ERPO, particularly when the messaging emphasized the prevention of suicide and mass shootings through the temporary removal of firearms. The messages and specific details highlighting ERPO preventative measures received 30% higher positivity rates than other key details about the laws. Additionally, messages that include a real scenario as well as state-level information about ERPO proved to be informative and easy to understand.

Considering who is the most trusted for information about ERPOs, law enforcement consistently proved to be the most reliable across all states and demographics. However, key differences in demographic and behavioral groups did emerge regarding the sources of ERPO information:

  • Gun owners are more likely to trust national gun associations (33% compared to the 23% average) and local shooting clubs (28% compared to the 19% average)
  • Those who know someone in crisis are more likely to trust mental health organizations (56% compared to 43% average)
  • Gen Z and Millennials are less likely to trust local law enforcement (29% and 32% respectively, compared to the 42% overall average) with mental health organizations being the most trusted source for information about ERPOs.

The communications toolkit puts all four phases of ERPO research into practice, equipping organizations, government entities and law enforcement agencies with resources to best discuss these laws with the general public. Tested among individuals who know someone in crisis, gun owners, active-duty military/veterans and the general public, the messaging recommendations can help break through the general lack of familiarity with ERPO laws and how they are used.

“Although a majority of Americans have heard of Extreme Risk Protection Orders, very few have a firm grasp on how to potentially utilize these laws to prevent harm within their community. This study and toolkit not only shed light on the public’s level of awareness but provides vital insights and proven messaging frames catered to individual states to inform the public. Together, we can work towards a safer and more secure future for all communities, preventing potential tragedies before they happen” said Derrick Feldmann, Lead Researcher and Managing Director of the Ad Council Research Institute.

“As more states turn to extreme risk laws, ERPOs are becoming an important part of a growing set of solutions needed to reduce gun violence in our country. However, the most significant barrier preventing extreme risk laws from saving even more people, is the lack of public awareness and understanding around ERPOs” said Joyce Gun Violence Prevention and Justice Reform Program Director Tim Daly. “Simply put, if more people closest to those in crisis knew about this tool, and when and how to use it, more lives could be saved, and more tragedies prevented. If done right, we can unlock the full potential of ERPOs, and meaningfully reduce gun violence in our communities.”

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.

A free webinar for individuals and organizations working to educate Americans about ERPOs will be held on August 16th from 1:30pm-2:30pm EDT. Hosted by ACRI and The Joyce Foundation, the session will review detailed findings and key takeaways from the new report as well as an ERPO communications toolkit which includes talking points and resources on the latest information so organizations, government entities and law enforcement agencies can best discuss these laws with the general public. Register for the event here.

ERPOs: Understanding Public Knowledge & Attitudes Toward Extreme Risk Protection Orders can be downloaded here.

About the Ad Council and ACRI
The Ad Council convenes creative storytellers to educate, unite and uplift audiences by opening hearts, inspiring action and accelerating change around the most pressing issues in America. Since the non-profit’s founding, the organization and its partners in advertising, media, marketing and tech have been behind some of the country’s most iconic social impact campaigns – Smokey Bear, A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Waste, Love Has No Labels, Tear the Paper Ceiling and many more. With a current focus on mental health, gun safety, the opioid epidemic, skill-based hiring and other critical issues, the Ad Council’s national campaigns encompass advertising and media content, ground game and community efforts, trusted messenger and influencer engagement, and employer programs, among other innovative strategies to move the needle on the most important issues of the day.

To learn more or get involved, visit, join the Ad Council's communities on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter, and view campaign creative on YouTube.

The Ad Council Research Institute (ACRI) leverages the Ad Council’s insight-driven approach to examine some of the most important social issues of our time. Building upon years of research expertise, ACRI works with brand, corporate and nonprofit partners and clients to conduct research to gain a deeper understanding of the public’s perceptions, attitudes and willingness to act on social issues; develop and test messaging and narratives for social good campaigns; help build knowledge on the role influencers or trusted messengers can play to move the public to act; and identify key performance indicators for communications initiatives, and the tools through which to measure, assess and optimize them over time. Learn more about ACRI and our 2022 research agenda 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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