Expansion of California’s Red Flag Law Heads to the Governor

Monday, September 9, 2019

Ting participated in a rally in August calling for more gun safety laws. Courtesy: SF Brady United Against Gun Violence

California is poised to expand its red flag law after a recent study suggested such policies may be effective in reducing the risk of mass shootings. The Assembly sent Governor Newsom AB 61 by Assemblymember Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) today, which gives more Californians access to a court process that could temporarily take away someone’s firearms through a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), if they pose a danger to themselves or others. Current law only allows law enforcement and immediate family members to file a GVRO. Ting’s proposal adds educators, employers and co-workers.

“There’s no question in my mind that California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law is a powerful tool that helps save lives. With school and workplace shootings on the rise, it’s common sense to give the people we see every day a way to prevent tragedies,” said Ting.

From 2016 (when California’s red flag law took effect) through 2018, more than 600 people had weapons removed from their possession via GVROs. Researchers at the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis closely examined a sample of these individuals and found none were involved in subsequent gun-related violence. While it is hard to say how many incidents were prevented, it is reasonable to conclude GVROs play a role in reducing the chance of gun-related violence.

Seventeen states have a version of red flag laws on the books. Twelve enacted their measures after the 2018 Parkland, FL shooting. In California, there are two ways a GVRO can be granted:

  • For a duration of 21 days, immediately, which can be extended for up to one year after a court hearing, or

  • For a duration of one year after a court hearing

For GVRO requests in the latter category, Ting has a companion bill, AB 1493, which allows the subject of a GVRO to surrender their firearms to authorities without contesting the order. Under current law, even a subject who agrees guns should not be in their possession must still go through a court hearing, wasting time and resources.

As with all bills sent to the Governor this month by the September 13th deadline, he has until October 13th to act. If signed into law, AB 61 & AB 1493 will take effect September 1, 2020.

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