Governor Jerry Brown signs Gun Violence Restraining Order into law

Some say it's a huge step toward safety. But mental health and gun advocates say it puts personal rights in danger.
SACRAMENTO, Calif. -- A controversial new law was signed Tuesday by California Governor Jerry Brown, making this the first state to give law enforcement and family members the right to request a relative's guns be taken away if they feel the gun owner is mentally ill or unsafe.

It's being called a Gun Violence Restraining Order. And it works much like a domestic violence restraining order. Cops or family members must bring their concerns to a judge and ask for the guns to be removed.

Some say it's a huge step toward safety. But mental health and gun advocates say it puts personal rights in danger.

Many gun stores recently can't seem to keep enough ammunition and firearms in stock. Gun owners have grown fearful of their rights being restricted with each new bill signed into law.

And it's no different with AB 1014, the Gun Violence Restraining Order.

"You can always give a gun back, you can't get a life back," said Amanda Wilcox. "This is a very temporary prohibition, 21 days or at most a year."

Wilcox of Nevada County helped turn this bill into a law. Her 19-year-old daughter Laura Wilcox was one of three people killed in a 2001 shooting at a northern California behavioral health center.

Following the Aurora Theater shooting in July 2012 that killed 12 people Wilcox began pushing for tighter gun restrictions for people determined to be a threat.

"I think removing firearms when there is that kind of dangerousness will save a lot of lives in the state," she said.

But mental health advocates argue in a lot of cases the person with the mental illness is most at risk for self-harm or being harmed by someone else. And, they say, this new law could further stigmatize mental illness.

Legislators put AB 1014 together within days of the mass shooting in Isla Vista that killed six people last May.

The shooter there was being urged by his family to seek mental health treatment. He had no criminal background. His father now says the outcome of that day would be much different if AB 1014 was around then.

Action News reached out to many gun advocates in the valley. None wanted to talk on camera, but several said this new law is outrageous. They worry the state has placed itself in a position to disarm law abiding citizens without much more than an accusation.

If someone has their firearms taken away with one of these restraining orders they can appeal within 21 days. Also, if someone files a false claim to try and get someone's guns removed they could be charged with a misdemeanor.


California Gov. Jerry Brown signs firearm restriction, allowing family to request gun removal

California will become the first state that allows family members to ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat, under legislation Gov. Jerry Brown said Tuesday he had signed.

The bill was proposed by several Democrats and responds to a deadly rampage in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Supporters had said such a measure could have prevented the attacks, winning out over critics who said it would erode gun rights.

Law enforcement authorities in Connecticut, Indiana and Texas can seek a judge's order allowing them to seize guns from people they deem to be a danger.

The new California law gives law enforcement the same option and extends it to family members.

It continues California's efforts to lead the nation in preventing firearm injury and death, said Amanda Wilcox, an advocate for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, whose daughter was a victim of gun violence.

The greatest effect might be in preventing suicides or intervening where there is a history of domestic violence, she said.

"It's hard to know how much it will be used or how much it will prevent," Wilcox said. "It only takes avoiding one loss for this to be worth it."

Lawmakers approved the bill by Democratic Assembly members Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Das Williams of Santa Barbara amid pleas that they act after the May 23 attack in which six people were fatally stabbed or shot and 13 others wounded in the community of Isla Vista.

Relatives of the victims and other supporters of the bill said the parents of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger were thwarted in their attempts to seek help for their troubled son before the rampage.

Weeks earlier, his parents had his therapist contact Santa Barbara County mental health officials. Sheriff's deputies talked to Rodger but never entered his apartment or checked to see if he owned guns.

They decided he was not a threat to himself or others and took no further action.

Rodger later wrote that had deputies searched his room, they might have found guns that police said he used to shoot three people after stabbing to death three others. Rodger killed himself while being pursued by police.

Under the California bill, whoever seeks the restraining order would have to sign an affidavit under oath. If they lie, they could be charged with a misdemeanor.

A court hearing would be held within 14 days after the restraining order is granted to give the gun owner a chance to argue there is no danger.

Republican lawmakers and some Democrats voted against the measure, known as AB1014.