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Monday, April 22, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

New CA Law Disarms Relatives Out of Concern

(CN) - Concern for gun-owning relatives will soon be enough for California families to have courts remove their firearms, under a bill Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Tuesday.

Known as the "gun violence restraining order," the legislation is the first of its kind in the nation. It was written in response to the Isla Vista rampage this past May, near the University of California's Santa Barbara campus, that injured 13 and left seven, including mentally ill shooter Elliot Rodger, dead.

Rodger's family had expressed concern over his mental state, but police were unable to legally confiscate his weapons. Existing legislation allows officers to confiscate guns only from felons, from people who have a mental instability, or from those who have domestic-violence restraining orders against them.

Under AB1014, introduced by Democratic Assembly members Nancy Skinner and Das Williams, immediate family members and law-enforcement agencies can seej court orders to temporarily remove guns from certain individuals.

"Family members are often the first to spot the warning signs when someone is in crisis," Skinner said in a statement. "AB1014 strengthens our mental health and gun control laws by providing an effective tool which family members and law enforcement can use to help prevent shootings before they occur."

The restraining order would last 21 days, during which time a judge must hold a hearing to determine if the order should be issued for up to one year. The order could then be renewed for additional one-year periods, and the restrained person could request one hearing per renewal period to terminate the order.

"AB1014 puts California in the lead in common sense gun protection," Skinner said. "It makes California the first state to enable family members to temporarily limit access to firearms while help, such as mental health or substance abuse treatment, is sought."

The new law becomes effective Jan. 1, 2016.

Brown signed another gun bill, SB 199, on Tuesday that mandates additional bright-colored markings on toy guns sold in California, so that they are not mistaken for real firearms. The "Imitation Firearm Safety Act" was introduced by state Democratic Sens. Noreen Evans and Kevin de Leon in response to the fatal shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez last October by a Sonoma County sheriff's deputy who mistook the boy's airsoft gun for an AK-47 assault rifle.

"A toy should look like a toy and not a lethal weapon," Evans said in a statement. "Currently these copycat toys are manufactured to be virtually indistinguishable from real firearms. Toys should not get a child killed."

In a similar incident four years ago, 13-year-old Rohayent Gomez was left a paraplegic after Los Angeles police officers found the boy and his friends playing "cops and robbers" with airsoft guns in the street.

Legislators collaborated with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck after that shooting to require distinguishing colors on BB guns, but SB 798 failed passage in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.

Brown later signed a similar measure, SB 1315, however, that allowed cities within Los Angeles County to enact local ordinances more restrictive than state law regulating the manufacture, sale, possession or use of any BB device, toy gun or replica of a firearm substantially similar to existing firearms.

The bill signed on Tuesday amends the penal code to expand the definition of a "BB device" to mean any instrument that expels a projectile that is 6 mm or 8 mm in caliber, such as a pellet, through the force of air pressure, gas pressure or spring action, or any spot-marker gun.

Any replica gun fitting this definition must be colored to distinguish it from a real weapon.

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