California Gun Restraining Order Law Rarely Used
A California law allowing certain people to ask judges to temporarily bar individuals who are believed to be dangerous from having guns is being used infrequently, a newspaper reported Wednesday.
The law, which took effect in 2016, allows family members and police officers to seek gun violence restraining orders that can remain in effect for up to a year, but the Los Angeles Times reported that state Department of Justice records show there were fewer than 200 orders issued.
The law was enacted in the aftermath of a May 23, 2014, rampage by community college student Elliot Rodger, 22, who killed six people and wounded 13 in shooting and stabbing attacks in Isla Vista near the University of California, Santa Barbara and then shot himself to death.
Rodger's mother had become so alarmed the previous month by his YouTube videos that she informed his therapist, who notified health officials who in turn notified the local sheriff's department. But Rodger seemed OK when deputies visited his apartment.
Los Angeles County, California's most populous county, led with 32 orders in the first two years and several counties had none.
"The paucity of (orders) here in Los Angeles leads me to believe additional training will be very helpful," Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer, a supporter of the law, told the Times.
Feuer, whose office has led educational sessions and helped with a website that offers instructions on obtaining restraining orders, has contacted Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore and Los Angeles School Police Chief Steve Zipperman about training sessions with officers.
"It's underutilized," said Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Marisa McKeown, an expert on the orders.
McKeown said big money goes toward passing legislation and often less is put into educating people about a law.
Eleven gun restraining orders were issued in Santa Clara County in the first two years, but McKeown said the number has increased this year.
"This is an unbelievably powerful tool that fills a previous gap" when dealing with a potential active shooter situation or threat of suicide, she said. "Before you had to wait for them to do something."
While gun rights advocates continue to criticize the law as encroaching on Second Amendment rights, a new bill awaiting a decision by the governor would expand the law to allow teachers, employers and co-workers to request restraining orders.
Beverly Hills police Sgt. Max Subin told the Times that gun violence restraining orders should be used judiciously.
"We don't want to get overzealous," he said.