Congress moves to expand red flag laws nationally in response to outrage over deadly mass shootings, a new study shows how California’s six-year-old law is taking effect: It disarmed 58 people Those who were threatening of gun murder.
The study, conducted by the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California-Davis, is the first detailed account of California’s gun violence restraining order cases in the state since the law went into effect in 2016.
“The Gun Violence Prevention Order Act is working to prevent cases of gun suicides and mass shootings,” said lead author Veronica A. Pier, an assistant professor in the Violence Prevention Research Program.
Many of the patterns in the 202 cases that were reviewed were anecdotal: Almost all of the people whose weapons were confiscated were men. More than half threatened to harm others, often intimate partners. And in about 30% of cases, officers used the law to confiscate weapons after threats of mass shootings involved six students who described violence at the school.
Now, the Red Flag legislation, also known as the Extreme Risk Protection Order and, in California, the Gun Violence Prevention Order, is a key component of a proposed bipartisan federal bill package aimed at mass screening of Uvalde, Texas, elementary schools. But the firing has to be reduced. May 24 and May 14 at a Buffalo, New York, supermarket.
The gunmen in both cases were 18 years of age and were armed with military-style semi-automatic rifles that they had legally purchased after a background check. The Buffalo Gunman was motivated by racial hatred; Uvalde Shooter was a high school dropout with a troubled home life.
Texas doesn’t have a red flag law, but New York does, and it could have disarmed the gunman, who was harassed by his actions by the police.
California is one of 19 states with red flag laws that were adopted near UC-Santa Barbara in 2014 after a mass shooting by a 22-year-old sexually depressed man who killed two people out of a sobriety before taking his own life. The women and a man were fatally shot after an encounter with the police.
The law asks law enforcement or family members to ask a judge to temporarily remove a gun that is deemed an imminent danger to themselves or others. The state expanded the law in 2020 to add teachers, employers and coworkers who could seek the order, which could be extended by five years after a hearing.
Ari Freilich, state policy director of the Giffords Law Center on Preventing Gun Violence, said, “California was the first in the country to pass a strong extreme risk protection bill into law, so it has more time than some other states to implement it.” Got a little more time.”
Advocates say the red flag law allows authorities to rapidly disarm a dangerous gun owner whose behavior has not yet escalated to the level of criminal threats or apparent mental distress. But gun rights advocates have criticized the laws as open to abuse, subject to preliminary confiscation orders issued before they can be objected to in court.
“It takes that aspect — constitutional rights, due process — and throws it to the wind, as if it doesn’t exist,” said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California. He said he could not point to specific cases in which the law was abused, but heard from several gun owners who said they were unreasonably disarmed by their ex as an act of harassment in divorce proceedings. it was done.
The UC Davis study attempted to look at the circumstances in more than 400 California gun violence restraining orders filed from 2016 to 2018. The researchers were able to obtain records for about half of them. Of the 202 cases studied, only 15% involved threats of suicide, a departure from the pattern seen with red flag laws in other states where many more suicidal individuals were involved.
Of the California cases studied, 54% involved a person who intended solely to harm others, and 25% aimed to hurt others as well as themselves. Intimate partners were the target in the largest portion, in 29% of cases. Of the rest, 23% targeted people at random, 21% at other family members, 11% at work, and 9% at school.
More than half of the cases involved verbal intimidation, and 55% involved threatening behavior, while 13% involved threatening mail, email or text, and 5% involved threats on social media.
Law enforcement filed for orders in 95% of cases. About one-third of the respondents were arrested on criminal charges, and about one-fourth were held under involuntary psychiatry.
Shotgun removal was documented in 56% of cases, and while most involved handguns, 29% involved military-style rifles and pistols.
The law has been used more frequently in California, from 86 orders in 2016 to 1,110 in 2019, according to its author, assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco.
In one of 58 threatened mass shootings, Pierre said, police used the law in 2016 to deter a Fremont man from buying a military-style gun before a local festival with a foreign terrorist organization. was.
In Santa Clara County, District Attorney Jeff Rosen cited at least four possible mass shootings by law. One involved a man who threatened to shoot the Valley Fair mall and had guns and ammunition found in his car. In another, a man who had threatened to shoot down a sporting goods store in a racist manifesto was found to have an arsenal of guns. A third case involved a fired construction worker who threatened former employers and coworkers on social media, and another recently unarmed a suspected killer of military-style rifles and ammunition.
However, the law cannot deter a murderer when it is not used.
But Frelich and Rosen said additional funding Congress is considering providing for states to develop and enforce red flag laws, which include laws like California’s. The biggest hurdle has been in using it to raise public awareness of the law and law enforcement training.
“These laws are a very effective tool,” Rosen said. “But they are only as good as the people who know about them.”