California Further Expands Red Flag Laws

October 18, 2019 Updated: October 18, 2019

A new California law will allow employers, co-workers and teachers to seek “gun violence restraining orders” against anyone they suspect may pose a risk of harm to themselves or others.

Gov. Gavin Newsom on Oct. 11 signed 15 gun-related bills that expand California’s “red flag” laws, making the state’s gun control laws the most restrictive in the nation, according to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. Most of the new laws are to become effective Jan. 1.

“Gun violence is an epidemic in this country, one that’s been enflamed by the inaction of politicians in Washington,” Newsom said in a statement. “While Washington has refused to act on even the most basic gun safety reforms, California is once again leading the nation in passing meaningful gun safety reforms.”

Assembly Bill 61, authored by Assemblyman Philip Ting (D-San Francisco), expands California’s red flag laws, which previously allowed only law enforcement officers and immediate family members to file petitions to temporarily confiscate the guns of someone deemed a danger to themselves or others. AB-61, twice vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown, was passed by the California State Assembly by a 57-18 vote on Sept. 9.

Assembly Bill 12, written by Assemblywoman Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks), extends the duration the confiscatory period of gun violence restraining orders from one year to five years, subject to earlier termination or renewal by a court. The new law allows judges to issue search warrants at the same time as they grant restraining orders. AB-12 was passed by a 59-12 vote on Sept. 10.

Meanwhile, gun rights advocates and civil liberties groups oppose California’s new laws.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) contends that AB-61 “poses a significant threat to civil liberties” because it allows petitions for gun violence restraining orders to be filed before gun owners can contest the matter.

The ACLU also said that under the new law those who ask for someone’s gun to be confiscated may “lack the relationship or skills required to make an appropriate assessment.”

The National Rifle Association (NRA) objected to AB 12, stating the “denial of constitutional rights is a serious matter that requires proper due process.”

In written statements opposing the bill, the NRA argued “the unfortunate reality is that an individual can be placed in a constant restrained state without ever being convicted of a crime or adjudicated mentally ill, but based on third party allegations.”

By extending the duration of the confiscatory period under restraining orders, affected gun owners will be burdened with the legal costs of appeal on an annual basis, the NRA stated. Currently, the obligation falls on the parties requesting a restraining order.

“The issuance of a protective order does nothing to deal with the underlying cause of dangerousness, nor does it subject the person to any actual physical restraint, ongoing reporting or monitoring requirements, or treatment for any underlying mental health condition,” the NRA said.

“Despite the good intentions of this legislation, AB 12 will have the effect of acting as a false security blanket. Again, this legislation would leave truly dangerous individuals free to commit their crimes with illegal firearms, explosives and anything else that sick individuals might use to commit heinous crimes. Unfortunately, AB 12 will only promote the denial of fundamental civil liberties.”

The other 13 new laws include:

  • AB 164 – Sabrina Cervantes (D-Riverside) – Firearms: prohibited persons;
  • AB 339 – Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) – Gun violence restraining orders: law enforcement procedures;
  • AB 521 – Marc Berman (D-Palo Alto) – Physicians and surgeons: firearms: training;
  • AB 645 – Jacqui Irwin (D-Thousand Oaks) – Firearms: warning statements;
  • AB 879 – Mike Gipson (D-Carson) – Firearms;
  • AB 893 – Todd Gloria (D-San Diego) – 22nd District Agricultural Association: firearm and ammunition sales at the Del Mar Fairgrounds;
  • AB 1297 – Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) – Firearms: concealed carry license;
  • AB 1493 – Philip Ting (D-San Francisco) – Gun violence restraining order: petition;
  • AB 1548 – Jesse Gabriel (D-Encino) – California State Nonprofit Security Grant Program;
  • AB 1603 – Buffy Wicks (D-Oakland) – California Violence Intervention and Prevention Grant Program;
  • AB 1669 – Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) – Firearms: gun shows and events;
  • SB 61 – Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) – Firearms: transfers; and;
  • SB 376 – Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) – Firearms: transfers.

Last month, Newsom and 11 other governors sent a letter (pdf) addressed to President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell calling for more gun control legislation.

“Putting an end to the gun violence epidemic is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it is an American issue,” the letter stated. “Gun deaths do not have to be the norm. The time is now to break the cycle by enacting four common-sense measures.”

Despite the claim of non-partisan efforts, every one of the governors who signed the letter were Democrats: Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont (D), Delaware Gov. John Carney (D), Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker (D); Michigan Gov. Greta Whitmer (D), New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D), New Mexico Gov. Michell Lujan Grisham (D), New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf (D), Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo (D), and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D).

The four measures the governors endorsed in the letter call for more red flag laws, universal background checks to “close the private gun sales loophole,” outlawing “assault weapons” and high-capacity magazines, and establishing stricter reporting requirements to prevent people with mental health problems from purchasing a gun.

The Los Angeles Times reported on Sept. 19 last year that L.A. City Atty. Mike Feuer encouraged more Californians to turn in family members under Red Flag Laws. Ten days later, Reuters reported that Newsom’s predecessor, Gov. Jerry Brown, had already signed legislation making it easier to seize guns from individuals.

Since Newsom took office in January, he has signed new gun control legislation that limits gun sales by unlicensed dealers to 50 per year, caps sales of semi-automatic centerfire rifles to one every 30 days and prohibits their sales to anyone under 21, according to the Associated Press. Also, parts used to assemble untraceable “ghost guns” can be sold only by licensed dealers after background checks.

After a shooting in April at the Chabad of Poway Synagogue, where one person was killed and three were injured, Newson announced plans to earmark $15 million for a program that gives grants to help improve security for religious and other nonprofit groups deemed to be at risk of an attack.

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