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San Diego Leads State In Number Of Gun Restraining Orders

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Since the recent deadly shootings in Texas, Ohio and California, there’s more talk in Washington about enacting gun violence safety laws. Among the ideas getting traction are gun violence restraining orders.

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Speaker 1: 00:00 Since the deadly shootings in El Paso, Dayton and Gilroy, there's more talk in Washington about enacting gun violence safety laws among the ideas getting traction, our so called red flag laws that allow authorities to confiscate weapons from people who are illegally designated a danger to themselves or others. California already has enacted gun violence restraining orders, and the city of San Diego is leading the state and the number of restraining orders filed by the court. The city's success has been noted and in this year's state budget, San Diego has been allocated money to teach other jurisdictions how to carry out the process. Joining me is San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott and Mara, welcome to the program.

Speaker 2: 00:41 Thanks Maureen.

Speaker 1: 00:43 The city's enforcement of the gun violence restraining order law has been happening for about two years now. How did the city prepare to enforce it?

Speaker 2: 00:52 It required us to form a relationship with our police department with, of course we already have, they're our client, but we needed to have the same priorities. So this was a priority for the chief of police. Um, then chief of police, Zimmerman and now chief of police in his light. And it also required the court to be on board because this was a relatively new process. And when we filed our first one, the court staff had not seen it before and needed to get used to seeing the forums and train up on it as well. So it really was a trifecta of, um, operational entities working together on something that's become a big priority for the city of San Diego.

Speaker 1: 01:32 How many restraining orders has a, the court issued in the city of San Diego?

Speaker 2: 01:37 We have achieved more than 300 restraining orders in less than two years since we put the program into effect.

Speaker 1: 01:44 And how many guns have been confiscated?

Speaker 2: 01:46 We have confiscated about 400 firearms, including about 40 assault rifles.

Speaker 1: 01:53 And I'm wondering who initiates a gun violence restraining order and what are the reasons that one could be approved?

Speaker 2: 02:00 It can be initiated directly from law enforcement. If they observe something that's concerning or the public will inform law enforcement and law enforcement will do its investigation to see whether the conduct or the threats would merit the issuing of a court order.

Speaker 1: 02:18 At what point does your office actually get involved in the process?

Speaker 2: 02:23 We get involved after the police department does its investigation, so if the community has a concern, they should contact the police department first. They'll look at the case to see whether there's substantial likelihood that the individual whose conduct has been reported is either at risk of hurting themselves or somebody else and they have access to a firearm and after they've done their investigation, they present their materials to our office for review. We carefully vet it because we have to prove our case to a court and if we the evidence we need so that we can obtain an order, then we'll run with it. From there. We make our requests to a judge who looks at both sides because the person whose rights are at issue has an opportunity as well to be present at that hearing. And they can present their own evidence. They can have an attorney there so they have a full opportunity to be heard. And if we prove our case and we have almost a hundred percent of the time proven our case and we get a gun violence restraining order,

Speaker 1: 03:31 how does the removal of weapons actually take place?

Speaker 2: 03:35 It happens that voluntarily, typically when the order is served, so an individual is requested to give their firearms to law enforcement. And if they do not agree to do so, then we get a search warrant in order to do that, that an individual can also store their firearms with a federal licensed firearm dealer of their choosing so that there are opportunities for them to determine how they want their firearms stored. And it's also important to note that that 12 month period gives the individual an opportunity to address whatever caused them to become irresponsible. And what we've seen with these few hundred, um, restraining orders that we've achieved is that there's a triggering event and sometimes it can be post traumatic stress disorder or somebody is going through a rough time at work or they've got alcohol or drug problems, but some folks have medical issues that need to be addressed. So we see all types of circumstances and if the person who's um, right to a gun is impacted, has had that opportunity and taken advantage of it and within 12 months they're now in a good place. They can go back to the court and request that they get their guns back sooner than the duration of 12 months. So there's a lot of flexibility to deal directly with that individual and whatever circumstances they're going through.

Speaker 1: 05:02 Now your office has been allocated in the most recent state budget money to conduct statewide training in how to go through this process. Do you know where and, and how you'll be giving these trainings?

Speaker 2: 05:15 We've been doing it for over a year now. We started in May of last year we did a symposium for law enforcement throughout the San Diego County. And we share our success with the state legislature. And Phil Ting was an advocate. He's an assembly member up in northern California and got $50,000 for us in the state budget, which has allowed us to train law enforcement agencies throughout the state of California. So we have been doing that for well over a year. We've trained over 200 law enforcement agencies and we're getting ready to go out to San Mateo County next week. So the program has been very successful. And what we're trying to show is that we have a model here in San Diego that can be replicated not only throughout the state but throughout the country. So we start with the nuts and bolts of a program. This is what law enforcement does, this is what our lawyers do, this is how we got our programs started.

Speaker 2: 06:11 Here's how we educated the court. And then following that training, we're available to take phone calls because sometimes the questions are going to come when you're actually putting your program into place. So that is what the legislature anticipated. They wanted us to do that up front training. But what we found is that that's actually not enough because those questions will come after the training occurs. So the state legislature and the governor just allocated an additional $250,000 for our office so that we can be available to take phone calls or assist as other jurisdictions tried to create their own programs

Speaker 1: 06:49 to follow up on their questions. Absolutely. Yes. I've been speaking with San Diego city attorney Mara Elliott, and thank you so much for your time. Thank you.

Speaker 3: 07:01 Uh.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.