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California sees record number of weapons confiscated

Five years ago, California became one of the first states in the country to pass a so-called gun law, allowing family members and police to ask a court to stop people suspected of posing a risk to themselves or to others from having firearms. . Now, as other legislatures consider passing similar laws, state officials said on Friday that a record 1,285 gun violence prohibition orders were issued by judges in California in the year. last, temporarily withdrawing firearms from those considered a danger.

Although many courts were operating under restrictions or remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they received requests for orders at a faster rate than the previous year, when guns were taken from 1,110 people .

“I’m glad Californians have a tool to step in to save lives and prevent tragedies,” said assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who drafted a bill last year that Expanded the people eligible to ask judges for orders from employers, co-workers and school employees.

The law came into effect in 2016 following the 2014 attack on Isla Vista, near UC Santa Barbara, in which six people were killed and 14 were injured when a 22-year-old man walked away. is unleashed by shooting, stabbing and hitting people with a car. before committing suicide. Family members of gunman Elliot Rodger had alerted police that they were concerned about his behavior, but officers who checked with him were unaware he had purchased guns.

Connecticut’s first “red flag” law was passed 22 years ago, followed by Indiana in 2005 and California in 2016.

California law takes a slightly different approach and is modeled after many of the 15 other states that have since adopted such measures, according to Dr. Garen J. Wintemute, professor of emergency medicine and director of the prevention research program. of violence at UC Davis. .

Lawmakers in other states, including North Carolina, have proposed that they also pass a “red flag” law.

The report released on Friday comes a month after the Biden administration called on Congress to pass a national “red flag” law, as well as legislation urging states to pass their own similar laws. In addition, the US Department of Justice plans to release model “red flag” legislation for states next month.

“Gun violence takes lives and leaves a lasting legacy of trauma in communities every day in this country, even if it is not on the evening news,” the White House said in an April 7 statement announcing the actions. .

A representative of the National Rifle Assn. said on Friday that the organization needed more time to consider the state report’s findings before commenting.

The momentum for gun safety laws has intensified after a series of mass shootings this year, including one in March in which four people were killed in the city of Orange.

California law allows orders to immediately withdraw firearms for 21 days, with the option of extending the order to one year after a court hearing. Orders can also be sought for up to five years with a court hearing.

A study done last year by the Wintemute office indicated that it appears the law is having an impact on gun violence. The researchers looked at 21 cases in which orders were issued to prevent a mass shooting. In most cases, people had made explicit threats of gun violence, and the study found that none of the 21 people had carried out shootings.

“In any case, there is evidence that gun violence could have happened without this order,” he said. “If this evidence does not exist, the order cannot be issued.”

Still, use of the law got off to a slow start in California, with just 85 orders sought in the first year after its enactment.

Wintemute praised the outreach and aggressive actions of some local law enforcement agencies, most notably in San Diego and Orange counties, which led the state last year with 483 and 140 orders, respectively. Los Angeles County had 30 orders last year.

“Local champions make a big difference, as the San Diego experience shows,” said Wintemute.

Ting said San Diego City Atty. Mara Elliott has been a leading advocate for the use of restraining orders.

A spokesperson for Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer said the prosecutor “strongly supports” the use of gun violence restraining orders.

“Our office will continue to work with Los Angeles law enforcement officials to expand the GVRO broadcast,” said spokesperson Rob Wilcox.

The record number of prescriptions issued in California was encouraging for Christian Heyne, Brady’s vice president of policy, who advocates gun control laws.

“Extreme risk laws, like those in California, save lives,” Heyne said. “It is a tool that families and law enforcement can use to ensure the safety of their loved ones, themselves and the entire state.”

While the pandemic may have disrupted the operations of the courts that issue the orders, Ting said this could also have had the effect of increasing the number of firearms seized.

“The COVID-19 restrictions that kept people at home may have swayed the rise, making them more aware of other people’s behaviors and open to seeking help from law enforcement or the courts directly,” he said. Ting said.

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