Use of gun violence restraining orders continues to rise

For the fourth year in a row, the number of gun violence restraining orders issued in California has grown, as...

For the fourth year in a row, the number of gun violence restraining orders issued in California has grown, as California residents and law agencies increasingly make use of the state’s “red flag” law.

Gun violence restraining orders, or GVROs, mandate the temporary removal of a person’s firearms because they pose a danger to themselves or others.

Data shows that California saw an increase from 85 restraining orders issued in 2016, the first year the state implemented a red flag law, to 1,285 GVROs issued in 2020. The growth from 1,110 GVROs issued in 2019 to 1,285 GVROs issued in 2020 was slower than that of previous years, but some lawmakers attributed this to the pandemic.

“The closure of our courts for periods of time during the pandemic may have contributed to the slow growth in GVRO usage,” said Assemblymember Phil Ting, who represents San Francisco. “Still, nearly 1,300 orders were issued, with San Diego County leading the way. I’m glad that Californians have a tool to intervene to save lives and prevent tragedies.”

San Francisco issues relatively few of the orders by comparison to some Southern California counties. While San Francisco issued 11 in 2019, for instance, San Diego County issued 397.

Under California’s original red flag law, family members and law enforcement could to go to the courts to obtain GVROs. But Ting passed AB 61 in September 2020, which expanded the pool of people who can obtain a GVRO, allowing educators, employers and co-workers to file for one when coordinating with school administrators or human resources departments.

Ting is also continuing his work to implement AB 1237, which reiterates the duty of the Attorney General’s Office to release gun violence data to California research centers. Ting began his work on this bill after researchers at UC Davis struggled to get the gun violence data they needed; under former attorney general Xavier Becerra, the Department of Justice was withholding individualized data from these researchers, citing the need to protect the privacy of California residents.

Individualized data is especially important for gun violence researchers because much of their research focuses on individual case studies, Dr. Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis Health, previously told the Examiner.

Additionally, California’s gun laws are stricter than most states, making it one of the only places where research on the effectiveness of gun violence prevention laws can be done.

Though the newly sworn-in Attorney General Rob Bonta made the data available as soon as he took office, Ting said he will continue to pursue AB 1237 to ensure state firearm data remains accessible to researchers – who expressed gratitude that they finally have access to the data.

“We’re very glad to have received the information we need to continue our detailed evaluation of California’s pioneering GVRO policy,” Wintemute said. “Research on many other violence prevention policies and programs also depends on data from the Department of Justice; we and our colleagues at other universities are hopeful that the legislature will act to preserve that access, for the sake of all Californians.”

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