A new state law now allows family members and police to seek restraining orders to strip guns away from individuals they believe are at risk of hurting themselves or others, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer said Thursday.
The “gun violence restraining order” law that went into effect Jan. 1 gives immediate family and law enforcement the ability to petition a judge for an order to prohibit a potentially violent person from owning or having firearms.
Both immediate family and law enforcement will be able to go to court to request a 21-day restraining order, Feuer said. The law also allows for longer-term restraining orders lasting a year, with the possibility to renew.
Feuer said the new law will “save lives,” and he vowed to take steps to make sure it’s put to use locally.
The City Attorney’s office is hosting a training on Feb. 6 for attorneys interested in doing pro-bono work for family members seeking restraining orders, and city attorneys are advising the Los Angeles Police Department on the new law, Feuer said.
Feuer added that he hopes the gun violence restraining order law will serve as a “template” for other states, and he is working with prosecutors around the country to get similar laws adopted elsewhere.
Shooting survivors and victims’ family members who joined Feuer for a City Hall news conference Thursday said recent mass shootings could have be prevented had this law been in place at the time.
Bob Weiss said his daughter’s death in a 2014 shooting spree in Isla Vista in Santa Barbara could have been avoided. Prior to the shooting, the gunman’s parents had been worried about their son and asked law enforcement to do a wellness check on him, which was a possible missed opportunity to confiscate his guns.
A gun violence restraining order law “would have empowered his parents or law enforcement to temporarily take away his guns, but that didn’t happen — the law didn’t exist then,” Weiss said.
Feuer said the Isla Vista shootings were a “catalyst” to getting the gun violence restraining order law passed last year.
Pat Maisch, who intervened in a gunman’s attempt to reload in Tucson, Arizona shooting in 2011, said the restraining order legislation would have “changed the outcome” in which then-congresswoman Gabby Giffords was seriously injured and six people were killed, including a nine-year-old girl.
“The system failed that child, and the system desperately failed the attendees” Maisch said about the event, which was held by Giffords to meet with her constituents.
Maisch said the gunman’s diagnosis of schizophrenia while in prison came too late to have prevented the deaths.
Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence that has been pushing for wide adoption of gun violence restraining order laws, said it allows family members, not just law enforcement, to seek removal of guns from potentially dangerous individuals.
“Who knows you better than your family?” Horwitz said. “They see the issues first. This gives a tool to those individuals in crisis to get help they so desperately need without the long-term stigma of criminal charges or involuntary commitment.”
He said that because the gun violence restraining order is modeled after ones for domestic violence cases, judges and law enforcement should already understand how to implement this new tool.
“The key right now is to inform the public about this tool,” Horwitz said. “Maybe you are afraid because you think your son is in danger, maybe you are afraid because you might be a victim … If you are a family member go to court to protect yourself and protect your loved one, if you are not a family member go talk to law enforcement.”
A fact sheet about the new law can be found here.
—City News Service