This blog post was written by Dion Mcgill, Communications and Community Outreach Manager for Strengthening Chicago’s Youth. Prior to joining SCY, Dion was the Program Manager for the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence.
If you follow our friends at the Gun Violence Prevention Education Center & Illinois Council Against Gun Violence, or GPEC/ICHV on social media, you’ve been seeing a lot of posts about FRO’s, or Firearm Restraining Orders. But what is an FRO, and why are we talking about them so much right now?
A firearm restraining order, or FRO, is a civil court order, signed by a judge that temporarily prohibits someone (the “respondent”) who is at risk of hurting themselves or others from possessing or purchasing any firearms.
So why would something like an FRO be needed? Well, in many high profile shootings, family members were often the first to see a loved one engage in dangerous behaviors and to grow concerned that their loved one was at risk of harming themselves or others before any violence actually occurred. It is often common for family members to be the first to know when a person is in crisis in incidents of interpersonal violence and suicide. The Firearms Restraining Order (FRO) offers family members and law enforcement a tool for temporarily preventing access to firearms by loved ones in crisis.
If you read our blog on Congresswoman Lauren Underwood and the Child Suicide Prevention and Lethal Means Safety Act, you already know that Suicide is currently the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, and that COVID-19 has only threatened to accelerate that trend.
However, overall, suicide rates have gone down nearly 6 percent over the last year. The decline to less than 45,000 suicides is the largest annual drop in at least 4 decades. Many experts have found the trend surprising given that Americans have reported increased depression, anxiety, and substance use during the pandemic. Additionally, gun sales have also risen dramatically during this period of time.
Unfortunately, cases of suicide have risen in the African American community during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is in addition to African American communities and alongside Latino/Latinx communities being disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 virus in both infection and death rates. Racial health inequity and disparities are nothing new and are now rightfully being attributed to far ranging systemic racism and lack of investment in communities.
SCY and our colleagues at TRICAM (Teamwork to Reduce Infant, Child, and Adolescent Mortality) recently created a gun safety toolkit that helps to address some of these issues. While the toolkit was initially conceived for use with medical practitioners and pediatricians, it became abundantly clear in conversations that much of the information would be useful for parents as well. The toolkit provides a basic overview of firearm prevention laws in IL and their implications for clinical practice (i.e. pediatricians talking with families about gun safety laws), the basics of advocating for gun safety legislation in IL, and an overview of resources for both pediatricians and parents regarding gun safety. You can find the gun safety toolkit here: Gun Safety Toolkit
Finally, we are currently in a phase of attempting to educate the public about FRO’s. One of the most important questions we hear currently is how do you actually apply for a FRO? The Cook County Sheriff’s Office has added a page to their website detailing the process of how to obtain a FRO. The Cook County Sheriff’s Office also has a Frequently Asked Questions page that you can find here. Also, we encourage you to visit the website of Speak For Safety Illinois – who has been doing an amazing job informing and educating the public about FRO’s, and was even a partner in a previous SCY training event on the issue.
Much like anything else in life, these topics are complex. However, we are always working to make the information more palatable and relatable. We hope this information helps, and that you can share it with friends so that they are informed and more knowledgeable about all of these issues surrounding violence prevention.
- CBS News: U.S. gun sales surge to record high in 2020
- Healthline: Why Suicides Have Decreased During the COVID-19 Pandemic
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: Suicides Rise in Black Population During COVID-19 Pandemic
- New York Times: The Fullest Look Yet at the Racial Inequity of Coronavirus
- CDC: Racism and Health
- Voices of Child Health in Chicago: Firearm Safety, Gun Violence and Chicago Families
- Speak For Safety Illinois
- Cook County Sheriff’s Office Firearm Restraining Order Page