On May 7, 2020, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill joined prosecutors, medical experts, law enforcement, and scholars from across the country as part of the Prosecutors Against Gun Violence Summit: Prosecutors Respond to COVID-19.
“We have been working every single day since late February trying to prepare for and then respond to the impacts associated with the current coronavirus crisis,” DA Underhill said. “The impacts to the criminal justice system associated with this pandemic came drastically fast and we will be dealing with those effects for years to come. I was honored to be asked to participate in this summit. I am proud of the work my office has done over the years that allowed us to work quickly and efficiently with our local public safety coordinating council to immediately implement policies and procedures to balance public safety, public health and to help guide crime victims through the criminal justice system during a time of even more uncertainty.”
Prosecutors Against Gun Violence (PAGV) brought hundreds of prosecutors, law enforcement leaders, subject matter experts and gun violence prevention advocates together. The summit was convened to discuss the unprecedented challenges facing the criminal justice system during the COVID-19 pandemic, including domestic violence, child abuse, safe storage of firearms, Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs) and Extreme Risk Protection Orders (ERPOs), jail release considerations, and firearm suicide prevention efforts.
During the summit, DA Underhill discussed Oregon’s Extreme Risk Protection Orders. An ERPO prohibits a person the court has found to be an immediate risk of harm to themselves or others from possessing a deadly weapon. The mission of an ERPO is to prevent and reduce gun violence in our community.
In Oregon, law enforcement or a family or household member can petition the court for an ERPO. There are strict thresholds that must be met in order for a judge to approve an ERPO.
DA Underhill worked with Senator Ginny Burdick and Sen. Brian Boquist to receive bipartisan support for Oregon’s ERPO laws.
“The coronavirus outbreak has forced prosecutors’ offices around the country to become nimble and rapidly adapt to new challenges,” said Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance, Jr. “It has ushered in a new era of teleworking, meaning that most daily functions have moved from the courtroom to the living room, and yet work continues apace. The pandemic is also changing crime patterns before our eyes. Around the country, there’s been a surge in gun purchases, and mounting concern about the rise in at-home crimes, like domestic violence. This combination of factors prompted PAGV to come together in this forum.”
“This was PAGV’s eleventh summit and it was like no other because these times are like no other,” said Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer. “One public health emergency, the prevalence of gun violence, has collided with another—COVID-19. Our summit took on the implications of that collision through the lens of public safety officials that especially focus on our most vulnerable communities.”
DA Vance and City Attorney Feuer are both co-chairs of PAGV.
Highlights from the summit’s discussions:
- Reaching out to domestic violence victims during the pandemic and how to disarm abusers in general and during COVID-19
- Heightened concerns surrounding child abuse during this crisis and how adverse childhood events and trauma are made more dangerous by the presence of guns in the home, and how to address those issues
- Safe storage of guns, focused on legislation, outreach to pediatricians and schools to help ensure that guns in the home are locked away and kids do not have access to them
- Best practices on GVROs and ERPOs, including setting up units to make them more accessible and how best to enforce them
- Jail release considerations and the need for compassionate justice, taking into account both the public’s safety and the safety of those detained
- Firearm suicide prevention, and finding the potential for common ground with gun owners
Contact: Brent Weisberg, Communications Director