Gun Violence Restraining Order Moves Forward

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New legislation traveling through the California State Senate could lead to issuances of new gun violence restraining orders, which will remove firearms and ammunition from those believed to pose a violent risk to those around them.

Nancy Skinner, Das Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson authored AB 1014, Gun Protection Orders.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs, but almost nothing can now be done to get guns out of the hands of someone in crisis,” stated Assemblymember Skinner in a press release, in the wake of the Isla Vista killings in May which claimed seven lives (four by shooting).

The bill would authorize courts to issue ex parte gun violence restraining orders (emergency restraining orders that can be issued without an official hearing) on individuals deemed dangerous by law enforcement, including those who pose a risk to themselves and/or others. The restraining order would last a maximum of 21 days, but can be extended for a period of up to a year should it be deemed necessary at a subsequent hearing.

During the period of the restraining order, the restrained party would be forbidden from owning, purchasing, possessing or receiving a firearm and/or ammunition. All firearms in the individual’s possession would be turned over to specified law enforcement officers. Those who violate their restraining orders will be charged with a misdemeanor and have five years added to the length of the restraining order.

Individuals who falsely file petitions for gun violence restraining orders on others would be subject to punishment, including being charged with a misdemeanor.

Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America issued a press release last Thursday, urging the California Senate Appropriations Committee to pass the gun violence restraining order legislation. Similar to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Mothers Demand Action seeks to create awareness about gun violence, though the organization does not advocate total gun control.

“The goal of this legislation is not taking guns away – it’s about preventing gun violence and saving lives,” stated Deborah Hernandez, volunteer with the California chapter of Moms Demand Action.

Similar laws exist in other states, most pertaining to domestic abuse cases in particular. Firearms are prohibited to all those who have been issued restraining orders under federal law, but in many states, certain conditions have to be met for the restraining order to meet federal criteria (the restrained party must be served the order, must have an opportunity to show up for a hearing, etc.). In cases when these conditions are not met, firearms can be kept with ex parte temporary restraining orders.

“Whenever tragedies [like Isla Vista] occur, we always wonder what could have been done to prevent this,” said Sara Smirin, California chapter leader for Moms Demand Action. “This bill answers that question.”

Assemblymember Mike Gatto voted for the bill in May 2013, when it passed before being amended again. Gatto not only represents Glendale and La Crescenta, but is also the chair of the California Senate Appropriations Committee.

“I voted for AB 1014 because it strikes the right balance,” said Gatto. “It gives law enforcement additional options to take away a weapon from a mentally disturbed person, while preserving the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

“The more that we can do to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, the more we can protect people from tragedies,” said Smirin, “the greater opportunity we have to save lives.”

If passed and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, the bill could become law by Jan. 1.

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