The new California gun seizure law that begins on New Year’s Day is not just important for gun owners, but for any family. In contrast to previous gun control laws trying to get a handle on gun violence, this law focuses on guns in the hands of mentally unstable individuals.
In regard to the new California gun seizure law, The Washington Times writes the following on December 29: “Proposed in the wake of a deadly May 2014 shooting rampage by Elliot Rodger, the bill provides family members with a means of having an emergency ‘gun violence restraining order’ imposed against a loved one if they can convince a judge that this person’s possession of a firearm ‘poses an immediate and present danger of causing personal injury to himself, herself or another by having in his or her custody or control’.”
According to Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Michael Moore, the new gun law is supposed to allow police officers to confiscate a gun without any prior notice. “The law gives us a vehicle to cause the person to surrender their weapons, to have a time out, if you will. It allows further examination of the person’s mental state.”
In May 2014, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger went on a killing spree near the campus of the University of California that ended with six people being dead and 14 being injured. Just minutes before the killings, Rodger had uploaded a video to YouTube expressing his plans. He had also written a 107,000-word manifesto that he published shortly before his heinous act. In addition to two knives, Rodger used three handguns that he had legally acquired.
If California’s new gun seizure law would have existed in 2014, Rodger might have been stopped – not because police took action – but his family.
“Before the shootings, sheriff’s deputies had visited the shooter, Elliot Rodger, after his parents raised concerns about his mental health and online rants against women. But deputies concluded Rodger, 22, was not a risk. They decided they had no basis to search his apartment, where he had amassed guns, ammunition and knives,” writes NewsOK.
California’s new gun seizure law, despite sparking a lot of controversy against Governor Jerry Brown, does give families more power. “Family members who believe a loved one poses a danger to themselves or others will be able to ask police to seek a temporary ‘gun violence’ restraining order from a judge beginning Jan. 1. The order would allow police to seize the person’s guns for 21 days.”
The full text of Assembly Bill 1014 is available on California’s Legislative website. However, noticing the below section might shed some light as to who can petition a restraining order:
“18150. (a) (1) An immediate family member of a person or a law enforcement officer may file a petition requesting that the court issue an ex parte gun violence restraining order enjoining the subject of the petition from having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition.”
Gun-control opponents are pointing out that California’s new law is a violation against the Second Amendment. “We don’t need another law to solve this problem. We think this just misses the mark and may create a situation where law-abiding gun owners are put in jeopardy,” says Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.
However, are mentally unstable individuals “law-abiding” gun owners? Are police officers sufficiently trained to make the distinction? Recent shootings involving police officers and mentally unstable individuals seem to indicate that by the time a mentally unstable individual is facing a police officer (even if it is a just a pen and not a knife or a gun) it is too late.
With law enforcement officers being insufficiently trained or merely overcome in a potentially dangerous situation, it is up to families to prevent a possible disaster. Even if one family does not have a gun-owning “lunatic,” someone might be aware that there is a mentally gun-owning unstable individual in another family and opening up the communication about the new law might make a difference – and help save lives.
“It’s the family members, it’s the people closest to the perpetrator, who are in the best position to notice red flags,” said San Diego State University professor and lawyer Wendy Patrick in regard to the new California gun seizure law.