A new California gun control measure will allow private citizens to ask courts to seize firearms from family members they believe may pose a threat to the public or themselves. Governor Jerry Brown signed the measure into law on Tuesday.
The new gun safety law legislation, which takes effect beginning in 2016, allows cops, immediate family members and “some others” to seek what’s appears to be in essence gun restraining orders from a judge. If allowed the order would authorize police to immediately seize any and all firearms owned by the “potentially violent” person and their name would be added to a “prohibited from purchasing weapons” list.
The restraining order could be in effect for up to 21 days based purely on suspicion and accusation, with a hearing within two weeks. If the court finds a person is actually a threat the confiscation order could be extended for a year or even more in certain cases, depending on the court’s judgement.
While several other U.S. states have passed legislation allowing law enforcement to petition the court to take guns away from people they deem violent, California is the first state to allow family members to do so.
Nancy Skinner, the California assemblywoman who sponsored the bill, says the new law will save lives:
“This puts California in the leadership on efforts to stop gun violence, and it gives a very effective tool to law enforcement and families to intervene before a shooting tragedy occurs.”
Skinner introduced the legislation as a knee-jerk response to the shooting in Isla Vista, Calif., in May, when a 22-year-old opened fire killing six people. According to reports the culprit had legally purchased firearms in the preceding months and had been able to keep them even though his family reportedly warned the police that he might be unstable.
Gun rights advocates say the gun restraining orders won’t prevent mass shootings but would instead deprive some Californians of their right to defend themselves. Several have suggested the law would not withstand a challenge in court.
Tim Donnelly, a California assemblyman and gun rights proponent said the law will be ineffective in stopping gun violence:
“Every one of us wants to prevent a mass shooting. The question is: Would this bill stop that? I don’t believe you can ever stop that with laws. I don’t believe you can legislate evil out of the hearts of men.”