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Thursday, July 11, 2024 | Back issues
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Gun-Violence Restraining Orders Unveiled in L.A.

LOS ANGELES (CN) - The Los Angeles city prosecutor Thursday unveiled measures to implement a new California gun law that allows relatives to get a court order to disarm mentally ill people who pose a danger to themselves or others.

"Gun-violence restraining orders will save lives," city attorney Mike Feuer said Thursday.

"As California becomes the first state to put this landmark law in place, we will do everything possible to make sure it is effective, here in Los Angeles, and throughout the state."

Gov. Jerry Brown signed The Gun Violence Retraining Order legislation into law on Sept. 30, 2014. It took effect on Jan. 1.

The law allows family members and law enforcement officers to request a restraining order to take guns from mentally ill people who present a danger to themselves or others.

Feuer's office said it will arrange training sessions for pro bono attorneys to help family members who want to remove guns from relatives and is talking with the Los Angeles Police Department to create procedures for the new law.

Courts will consider requests to disarm people case by case. The law allows an order to issue "even when no crime has been committed or when an individual doesn't meet the criteria for an involuntary civil commitment for mental health treatment," Feuer's office said.

Feuer said the law was crafted to mirror domestic restraining orders, "to assure every subject full due process of the law."

More than eight people are killed by guns every day in California, Feuer's office said: 2,942 deaths in 2014. Suicides accounted for more than half of those deaths.

"As in many of the high-profile shootings that have become all too familiar, family members and intimate partners are often the first who know their loved ones are at risk of dangerous behavior, but lack a mechanism to separate them from firearms while in these periods of crisis," Feuer's office said.

California Rifle & Pistol Association president Chuck Michel said that while the new law "sounds good at politicians' press conferences" it will not keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

"Pre-existing laws already make that possible, if police would use them," Michel said in an email. "The new law does, however, set up another restraining order system that is ripe for the same kind of abuse that the courts have acknowledged is happening routinely under the current systems. These laws have created a process that can be abused by anyone with a grudge against someone who chooses to own a gun for self-defense or sport."

Brown signed the bill AB 1014 into law after Elliot Rodger's mass shooting in Santa Barbara on May 23, 2014. Rodger killed six University of California Santa Barbara students and injured 14 others in Isla Vista, near the college campus, before fatally shooting himself.

"One of the driving forces behind the law's passage came from the knowledge that the parents of the Isla Vista shooter had called law enforcement out of the fear that he was a risk to himself/others, but were unable to prevent him from getting the guns that he ended up using to kill six and wound seven that Memorial Day weekend," the City Attorney's Office said.

The father of one of Rodgers' victims, freshman UC Santa Barbara student Veronika Weiss, said the law could have prevented his daughter's death.

"It will help prevent future atrocities like Isla Vista from happening," Bob Weiss said in a statement. "I'm grateful to our state Assembly and governor for creating this law, which will spare others from experiencing the heartbreaking consequences of unchecked gun violence."

Patricia Maisch was at a supermarket parking lot in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner killed six people and wounded 13, including Congresswoman Gabriele Giffords.

Maisch kicked an ammunition magazine out of Loughner's hands as he was reloading.

"When lives are at risk, both those of potential victims and the possible perpetrator, we need a legal method that will quickly assist family members and closely associated people a way to prevent deaths or injuries," Maisch said. "What a difference this law might have made to the innocent victims in Tucson."

The executive director of the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, Josh Horwitz, said it is important to disarm people who pose an "elevated risk" to their family and the public.

"The GVRO going into effect in California will provide family members - those who know their loved ones best - a much-needed tool to separate those in crisis from deadly weapons while simultaneously allowing these same individuals to seek the help they often desperately need," Horwitz said.

Los Angeles is the largest city in California to pass a restriction on high-capacity magazines in a state that already has some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

In October, gun rights advocates and Los Angeles County sheriff deputies filed a lawsuit challenging the city's ban. Michel filed the lawsuit on their behalf.

President Barack Obama this week announced plans to expand background checks on gun buyers.

The New York Times on Thursday published an op-ed piece from the president, in which he said: "I will not campaign for, vote for or support any candidate, even in my own party, who does not support common-sense gun reform."

The president will discuss the issue Friday night at a live CNN town hall meeting at 8 p.m. Eastern Time.

The Los Angeles chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the Violence Prevention Coalition of Greater Los Angeles, Women Against Gun Violence, and the California Chapter of Moms Demand Action co-sponsored the city attorney's press conference.

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