California courts ordered people to temporarily give up possession of their firearms 86 times last year.
A new law, which took effect in 2016, allows family members or law enforcement officers to seek a “gun violence restraining order” against someone they believe poses an “immediate and present danger” of harming themselves or others. Generally, the suspension expires within 21 days, though in 10 cases last year, the judge held a hearing and extended the order to one year because they determined the individual was still a substantial threat.
Legislators proposed the gun violence restraining order in 2014, in the wake of a mass murder in the college town of Isla Vista where six individuals were killed by stabbing and shooting. Supporters, including the parents of slain students, argued the law would provide a tool to prevent future tragedies. (Local authorities had conducted a welfare check on the Isla Vista shooter after his parents raised concerns about his mental health.) But critics worried about officials stripping guns from people without good cause and violating the rights of individuals who have not yet committed a crime.
While Los Angeles County courts issued the most gun violence restraining orders in 2016, with 15, there was nearly as many in the much smaller Santa Barbara County, where Isla Vista is located.
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“We were and are very aware of the purpose of the law and have worked to abide by it,” Lt. Kevin Huddle of the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in an email.
His agency was granted eight restraining orders last year, more than any in the state. Huddle speculated that other departments may be not as familiar with the law: “There have been agencies who have contacted us to put a process/procedure in place for their agency, so the knowledge is expanding.”
Six were issued in the Sacramento region – two via the Sacramento Police Department, and one each in Roseville, Folsom, Woodland and Nevada County.