Preventing Gun Violence
By Assemblymember Phil Ting
Since stay-at-home orders were issued this spring, we have rarely heard about mass shootings at schools and workplaces. However, pre-COVID, the number of incidents had been trending upward for years. In response, I decided to take action.
Last year, I authored and passed Assembly Bill (AB) 61 to expand our state’s “red flag” gun law. Taking effect Sept. 1, more Californians now have access to a tool that will help prevent tragedies. School staff, employers and co-workers can now use an existing court process to file what is called a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO). Previously, only law enforcement and immediate family had the ability to file for one.
If a judge approves, firearms would be temporarily taken away from an individual if they are deemed to pose a threat to themselves or others. The initial seizure is for 21 days, and the order can be extended for up to one year.
It makes sense to include our campuses and worksites in this expansion, because those are the places we spend the most time when we’re not at home. The people we see every day are likely to notice early warning signs, and red flag laws give them a way to intervene. To avert misuse, school employees must work with their administrative office, and co-workers must go through Human Resources, to seek a GVRO.
Since California’s original red flag law began in 2016, courts have approved more than 1,700 GVROs – the bulk of them issued last year. San Francisco has also become more active in pursuing them in the last year, following education and outreach efforts undertaken by my office.
A recent incident illustrates how a GVRO may have averted a workplace shooting. A mechanic in Sunnyvale who was about to lose his job brought guns to work, threatening to kill his supervisor. Police did not have adequate evidence to charge the employee, but law enforcement did secure a GVRO. They not only took away those firearms brought to the garage, but they also seized other rifles and high-capacity magazines. Imagine what could have happened if the safeguards were not in place.
A UC Davis study published last year found that nobody in their sample pool was involved in subsequent gun-related violence after their weapons were removed. While the study acknowledged how difficult it is to estimate exactly how many incidents may have been prevented, it is reasonable to conclude that our state’s GVRO law has helped.
If there is a chance to avert tragedy and save lives, we must take advantage of it. Nineteen states, plus the District of Columbia, agree and have implemented similar red flag laws.
Expanding California’s GVRO law is necessary because at some point, we are going to resume our pre-pandemic lives, attending classes in-person and working in an office. We need the people with whom we spend a lot of time – school officials, employers and co-workers – to have opportunities to intervene before tragedy strikes.
For more information on how GVROs work or how to obtain one, visit https://speakforsafety.org/.
Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the west side of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma and Daly City. He lives in the Sunset District. He can be reached at (415) 557-2312 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information and updates, visit https://a19.asmdc.org.