California gun confiscations increase sharply under restraining-order law

By Alexei Koseff | San Francisco Chronicle

Image result for gun theft by governmentSACRAMENTO — California police sharply increased gun confiscations last year from people considered to be a danger to themselves or others, state Justice Department figures show.

Law enforcement agencies seized the weapons from people who were subject to gun violence restraining orders, under a law that had been lightly used in its first two years on the books.

Courts approved petitions to confiscate weapons from 424 people in 2018, according to the Justice Department. That was up dramatically from 2017, when 104 such orders were issued, and 2016, the year the law took effect, when there were 86.

In the nine Bay Area counties, gun violence restraining orders jumped significantly, to 53 last year, from 14 in 2017.

Much of the overall increase in the state, however, was due to a surge in San Diego County.

“There’s a great deal of relief that there’s this tool to prevent gun violence in our community,” said San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott, who has pioneered a collaborative approach with local law enforcement departments and courts that allows officers to seek the orders quickly as part of their regular policing.

She said the strategy “took off like wildfire” after her office began the program in December 2017, with 185 gun violence restraining orders issued in San Diego County last year, up from 14 the year before.

Circumstances leading to the court orders include workplace disputes, domestic violence, divorce, and gun owners struggling with drug abuse and trauma, Elliott said.

When those “red flags” appear, she noted, law enforcement can seek a judge’s order to take the person’s guns away for at least three weeks. Authorities can later seek to extend the prohibition to a year.

The temporary nature of the orders gives people an opportunity to deal with their issues and eventually get their guns back.

 “We don’t have to wait for a crime to occur,” Elliott said. 

The Legislature passed the gun violence restraining order law in 2014 following the killings of six people in Isla Vista, near UC Santa Barbara.

The killer had posted threatening videos online, prompting his parents to ask authorities to check on him. Officers did so, but did not search his apartment for weapons.

Under the law, police, immediate family members and roommates can ask a judge to order the removal of firearms and ammunition from people they believe pose danger to themselves or others.

Thirteen states have some version of the policy, according to the Trace, an online news outlet that covers gun policy. The majority adopted their laws last year in reaction to the gun massacre at a high school in Parkland, Fla.

%d bloggers like this: