Extreme Risk Protection Order Recipient Says Oregon's Process Lacks Mental Health Expertise
In December, OPB published a story looking at how Oregon’s 2-year-old extreme risk protection order law was being used. The orders, known as ERPOs or red flags, allow law enforcement and family to petition a court to remove someone’s firearms if they are in danger of hurting themselves or others.
In that story, we spoke to Diane Haggard, a mother who petitioned a judge for an ERPO after she became worried her son Josh might take his own life.
She said that Josh became depressed and started drinking in late 2017.
In February 2018, he shot himself in the leg and Diane said he confided that he had been trying to take his own life. Diane petitioned for the ERPO soon after.
The law allows a respondent to challenge an order within 30 days, but Josh said he didn’t understand that at the time. Eventually, Josh convinced his mom to have the order lifted.
Initially, Josh didn't want to be interviewed, but, after the story aired, he changed his mind.
And his experience with the new law was very different from his mom's.
He said that when he shot himself in the leg, he was thinking back on a particularly traumatic case from his 14 years as a paramedic.
Guns and America’s Jonathan Levinson sat down with Josh Haggard to hear about his experience.
Q&A with Josh Haggard
Jonathan Levinson: When I spoke to your mom, she said she had been worried about you for a while and she was worried you were going to hurt yourself. Can you talk a little bit from your end, what you were going through?
Josh Haggard: I quit drinking again and I'm like, just had this really rough day and was having a nightmare about these little kids I dealt with this one day.
Long story short, I shot myself in the leg, which there was no … at any point I didn't want to kill myself. For some reason I felt like I needed to hurt. And so that's really where all this stuff began after that, it was just kind of like a nose dive.
Levinson: Going up to that, and even after, it sounds like you realized you needed some help. Do you feel like those resources were available to you and that you had access to them?
Haggard: It was difficult because I feel like nobody really ever explained this … or what things to look out for and mental health. Or even when I went through that like pretty nasty call, nobody followed up and said, "Hey, you should probably talk to a counselor about it or something."
It was something that affected me for the past seven years.
Levinson: So the cops came and took all your guns. In the middle of this crisis what was the impact of that on the bigger picture?
Haggard: It almost felt like it made everything so much worse.
I was like, "What are you guys talking about? What are you doing?" And they were like, "We're taking all your guns." And they explained to me, you know, that your mom said you're suicidal and stuff. And so I said, "OK, like that's fine, you guys can take them. Here's where they all are."
The day after they had taken my guns, a deputy showed up and handed me a piece of paper and was like, "Hey, sorry, dude, I gotta deliver this to you." I think it said something about like my mom had gone in and talked to the judge or something and I didn't know anything about any of this.
And so I lost it. I was so mad.
Levinson: Were people listening to you at all during all of this? It sounds like your mom was talking to other people and maybe the two people that know you best were you and your therapist and were either of those two people involved in these conversations at any point?
Haggard: No. Nobody at any point said, "Can we talk to your therapist? Like are you seeing a therapist?" Nobody even asked. I felt like the decisions were being made based on mental health with no mental health providers involved. It was like a police officer, a judge and my mom were the three that made this decision.
The judge doesn't know me. The police officer doesn't know me and my mom is a person I have a very kind of hard relationship with.
Levinson: One of the reasons this law is set up the way it is, is so that only people who you live with or direct family can petition for them is because of that problem that outsiders who don't know you intimately don't know the full picture.
Haggard: Yeah. And don't get me wrong, I understand from my perspective, like me saying I was suicidal to people and shooting myself in the leg are huge. From an outsider's perspective, I'm sure people are going to be like, well of course you should get his guns taken away, you know?
I just wish I would have been able to share my side and like I said, had a therapist or even my therapist that I was seeing at that time, I'm sure she would have been happy to go talk to the judge with me, you know, because she was involved before everybody else was.
Levinson: And then you eventually did go to court, right? And you went before a judge.
Haggard: I don't remember how the conversation came up between my mom and I, but eventually we came to kind of an agreement that I was doing better and like had gone to my therapy appointments through work. We agreed to go in and see the judge and the judge was really cool. He was like, "Hey, we're really supportive of our first responders. Like thank you for what you do," which was really good for me. Cause I had thought that everybody was just kinda ganging up on me.
So he pretty quickly was like, "Hey, you can have them back, you know, it sounds like you're in a better place now, that's great."
Levinson: If none of that made anything better ... it just made things worse, what has made things better?
Haggard: I've coveted my job for a long time. I've done it 14 years now and that was the breaking point for like ... through my process that was it for me. Just all of a sudden was like, I'm done. I can't drink anymore because I don't want to lose my job.
Levinson: You said you've had sort of a strained relationship with your mom your whole life. How are things now?
Haggard: After all this stuff went on, things just haven't been the same. We haven't been as close. I haven't naturally felt like I can open up to her like I did before that happened. So now, I mean I haven't talked to her in a month or something now, but, it's not something that really weighs on me. I just kind of feel like maybe it's part of life.
Guns & America is a public media reporting project on the role of guns in American life.
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