California Attorney General Rob Bonta recently issued a public safety alert reminding Californians of the strong laws in place to temporarily remove guns from dangerous individuals and potentially prevent an oncoming tragedy.
In addition to criminal laws that prohibit certain individuals from possessing firearms, California has strong protections in the form of civil orders: Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVRO) and Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (DVRO), as well as other orders like Workplace Violence Prevention Orders, School Violence Restraining Orders, and Civil Harassment orders.
These protections allow for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others. These orders can be a critical tool to remove firearms and prevent the purchase of new guns by individuals who pose a significant risk of harm to themselves or others.
“Often in the aftermath of tragedies such as mass shootings, we hear about red flags displayed by the perpetrator that could have signaled an impending crisis or trauma,” said Bonta. “California has strong red flag laws that allow the public and law enforcement to recommend the removal of guns from those who may be a potential threat.
“Criminal and civil orders that result in the removal of firearms are critical tools that can help save lives, but they are severely underutilized,” he added. “When you have concerns that someone may pose a threat, we encourage you to act; If you see something, say something. We are in this together, and together we can save lives.”
In 2016, California became one of the first states to enact a red flag law. In California, these laws are called Gun Violence Restraining Orders, or GVROs.
GVROs are court orders that prohibit individuals from owning or possessing firearms. The law initially allowed only law enforcement officers and family members of a person they believed was a danger to themselves or others to petition the court to prohibit that person from possessing firearms. The law has since been expanded to allow law enforcement officers, family members, employers, coworkers, and school employees to petition the court for a GVRO to prohibit a person from possessing firearms if they believe that person poses a serious threat.
In addition to GVROs, someone experiencing abuse or harassment may be able to obtain other civil orders through their local court or through law enforcement. These orders include DVROs, Workplace Violence Prevention Orders, School Violence Restraining Orders, and Civil Harassment orders. These orders provide protection for people being harassed or abused and include firearm prohibitions.
Individuals who are in fear of or experiencing abuse by someone with whom they are in a close relationship – such as a current or former spouse, partner, or parent – can request a DVRO.
These critical laws can assist law enforcement in recovering firearms from individuals who have shown a probability to commit violence, harassment, or abuse. Additionally, they can prevent those individuals from obtaining firearms in the first place.
For more information on how to obtain emergency or permanent orders under these provisions, go to courts.ca.gov or oag.ca.gov/ovgp/gvro-dvro.
Bonta has long-advocated for the increased use of GVROs to prevent gun violence. In October 2022, he brought together California’s city attorneys and county counsels for a special virtual convening on GVROs. The goal of the meeting was to highlight the lifesaving impact of GVROs and to provide resources and impetus for local agencies to establish GVRO programs in their offices.
Bonta specifically cited the success of San Diego’s comprehensive GVRO program. Under this program, Deputy City Attorneys apply for GVROs on behalf of officers from the San Diego Police Department. In 2021, over 31% or 435 of the 1,384 GVROs issued statewide were issued in San Diego County. Since the inception of the groundbreaking program, more than 1,500 firearms have been confiscated through GVROs. Removing these firearms is believed to have prevented multiple violent incidents, including mass shootings.
Victims of domestic violence who are in immediate danger should call 911. For additional information and assistance call:
• The 24-hour National Domestic Violence Hotline: (800) 799-SAFE ((800) 799-7233).
• The Victims of Crime Resource Center: (800) VICTIMS ((800) 842-8467).
For additional information on resources available to survivors of sexual violence visit: oag.ca.gov/sexual-violence.