How California’s New Gun Law May Help Save Lives
California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Gun Violence Restraining Orders, AB 1014, into law on September 30, 2014. The law finally became effective January 1, 2016.
Existing law had already regulated the sale, transfer, possession, and ownership of firearms and it included a prohibition on specified persons from owning or possessing firearms. Specifically, the law prohibited a person subject to a domestic violence protective order from owning or possessing a firearm while that order was in effect. Those same prohibitions applied to anyone involuntarily committed to a mental health facility, as the result of a mental health issue that made them a danger to themselves or others.
The Gun Violence Restraining Orders legislation AB 1014 expanded those existing protections by also restricting access to firearms or ammunition by individuals who have exhibited dangerous or threatening behaviors, but can still legally possess such them.
Under AB1014, concerned family members or law enforcement officers can file a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) with the court in situations where there is sufficient evidence for a judge to believe that an individual poses a danger to self or others.
A GVRO temporarily prohibits a person from buying and/or possessing firearms or ammunition. It also allows law enforcement agencies to remove any firearms and/or ammunition already in the individual’s possession. The law is modeled after California’s existing domestic violence restraining order laws.
AB 1014 established three types of Gun Violence Restraining Orders. They include a Temporary Emergency GVRO; an Ex-parte GVRO; and, a GVRO Issued after Notice and Hearing.
A Temporary Emergency GVRO may only be issued by a law enforcement officer and only if the officer asserts and a judicial officer finds there is reasonable cause to believe that a person poses an immediate and present danger of injury to self or others by having a firearm in his or her possession. The petitioner must also show where less restrictive alternatives have been ineffective, inadequate, or inappropriate. Such requests of the court can be made twenty-four hours a day.
An Ex-parte GVRO can be requested by an immediate family member or a law enforcement officer. However, to approve such an order, the court must consider a variety of evidence that that affirms a recent threat of violence or act of violence directed at another; a recent threat or act of violence directed toward himself or herself; a recent violation of a protective order of any kind; a conviction of a violent offense; or, a pattern of violent acts of threats within the past twelve months. The court can also consider any other evidence of an increased risk for violence. However, unlike a Temporary Emergency GVRO, petitions for an Ex-parte GVRO may only be brought during normal court hours.
A GVRO after Notice and Hearing can be triggered during hearings subsequent to the issuance of an Ex- parte GVRO. During such a hearing, the court may consider further evidence and testimony from the restrained person seeking to terminate the order; the petitioner who sought the Ex-parte GVRO; and, any witnesses who testify on behalf of the petitioner. The court then determines whether to issue a GVRO for one year. According to the law, evidentiary requirements and standards of review in these hearings are similar to those required for an Ex-parte GVRO.
Every person served with a GVRO must immediately surrender all firearms and ammunition in his or her possession.
There is no question during legislative consideration this bill was fiercely opposed by gun lobbyists that included the National Rifle Association and Gun Owners of California. One of their primary objections was the fact that under the law, gun owners are not entitled to a hearing before the GVRO order is issued. Instead, the law only required a hearing be held within 21 days of the order being issued.
Despite the usual objections from the gun lobby, statistics data reveal a concerning trend that easily supports the need for such legislation.
Firstly, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), gun suicides have continued to be far more common than gun-related homicides and account for 64 percent of all gun deaths in 2012. In addition, in 2011 firearms were used in 59.9 percent of suicides among active duty personnel, while between 1999 and 2010, 27,062 service veterans committed suicide. This was 22.2 percent of all suicides committed in America during that period.
A CDC report on intimate partner violence is equally, if not more concerning. Intimate partner violence is described as “actual or threatened physical or sexual violence or psychological and emotional abuse directed toward a spouse, ex-spouse, current or former boyfriend or girlfriend, or current or former dating partner”. According to the report, twenty-two percent of women and seven percent of men report that they have been physically assaulted by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Among female victims, four percent reported being threatened with a gun by an intimate partner, and at least one percent sustained firearm injuries in these assaults.
In 2014, fully one third of all female homicide victims in America were killed by male intimate partners. This included husbands and ex husbands, current and ex-boyfriends. In more than 50 percent of those deaths, the suspect used a firearm.