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Ignorance of the Extreme Risk Protection Order Law May Be Fatal

Posted on the 25 September 2023 by Rvbadalam @Nimasema

Most people have heard the expression, ignorantia juris non excusat, although perhaps not in Latin. Broadly translated it means, "ignorance of the law is no excuse." But there’s another expression from Roman law, ignorant lures nocet, which means, "not knowing the law is harmful." In the case of Extreme Risk Protection Order Laws, that’s a better fit.
I wrote a Guest Commentary for the Yakima Herald, published Sunday September 10th, that asked the question, “Why aren’t we using our 'red flag' law?” The commentary spoke to our failure to effectively implement the Extreme Risk Protection Order law (RCW 7.105.100), especially in Benton and Franklin counties. The ERPO law has been in effect in Washington for over five years, and to say it has been used only sparingly is an understatement. The biggest impediment to the law's employment is the public’s ignorance of its existence. The League of Women Voters of Benton and Franklin counties is working to change that.

Ignorance of the Extreme Risk Protection Order Law May Be Fatal

Sheriff's Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer

The critical importance of raising the public’s awareness of so-called 'Red Flag’ laws was brought home once again just recently, when a Los Angeles sheriff’s deputy was shot to death by Kevin Cataneo Salazar, whose family said he struggled with mental health issues, including “schizophrenia,” and wouldn’t take his medication. Law enforcement arrested the man and confiscated "several weapons" from his home. This case is eerily similar to the 2021 case of Ryan Kaufman here in Kennewick, reexamined in a February 2023 Tri-City Herald article by Cameron Probert.
Like Washington, California has a ‘Red Flag’ law, the court-issued Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO). This temporarily suspends a person’s access to firearms when they are found to pose a significant risk to themselves or others by having access to firearms, even if they obtained them legally, as the suspect in the deputy’s murder is said to have done. Only if the suspect had been evaluated by a competent behavioral health authority and certain conditions were documented, and if this was reported to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (“NICS”), might a gun dealer have refused to sell a firearm to the suspect.

'I want you to know that my son has schizophrenia and delusional perceptions and the police know this.'

Marle Salazar, mother of Kevin Cataneo Salazar, the killer of Los Angeles County sheriff’s Deputy Ryan Clinkunbroomer told this to reporters in Spanish. But her son had no record of being involuntarily committed to a mental institution, and only the police were in a position to address the situation Mrs. Salazar described to them. According to Mrs. Salazar, they told her son they couldn't help him.

It should come as no surprise that people are reluctant to have family members, especially children dear to them, involuntarily committed for mental evaluation, let alone hospitalization. But the tragedy is that 46% of people who die by suicide had a known mental health condition. Firearm deaths associated with mental illness are nearly always suicides, and a suicide attempt with a firearm is almost always fatal.
Suicide deaths are typically impulsive acts, and are the number one cause of firearm related death in the U.S. According to the Washington State Department of Health, in Washington over a 5-year period, 76% of firearm deaths were suicides. Don’t want to have a family member committed? At least remove their access to firearms. Petition for an Extreme Risk Protection Order, or ask your local police to do it.
Learn more about Extreme Risk Protection Orders:
In Washington, here:
In Benton County, here:
In Franklin County, here:
Por instrucciones con formularios en español:
Remember, ignorant lures nocet, not knowing the law is harmful. In the case of gun violence, it may be fatal.

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