California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday signed a law that will make the state the first to allow employers, co-workers and teachers to seek gun violence restraining orders against other people.
The bill was vetoed twice by former governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, and goes beyond a measure that he signed allowing only law enforcement officers and immediate family members to ask judges to temporarily take away peoples’ guns when they are deemed a danger to themselves or others.
They were among 15 gun-related laws Newsom approved as the state strengthens what the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence calls the nation’s toughest restrictions.
Newsom was quick to note that California has outperformed the rest of the nation, because of its gun safety laws, in reducing the gun murder rate substantially compared to the national reduction. Between 1993 and 2017, the latest available, there was a 62% decline in the gun murder rate in California, nearly double the 34% nationally, he said.
Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have laws similar to California’s current restraining order law, but the new law that takes effect on Jan. 1 will be broader.
“With school and workplace shootings on the rise, it’s common sense to give the people we see every day the power to intervene and prevent tragedies,” the bill’s author, Democratic Assemblyman Phil Ting of San Francisco, told The Associated Press. The existing law has mostly been used by police officers, but Ting said the expansion should allow more awareness and more opportunity for others to act. Hawaii allows the restraining order petitions by medical professionals, co-workers, and educators but not employers, Ting’s office said.
Maryland allows the restraining order petitions by health care providers and Washington, D.C., allows mental health providers to petition, while New York allows them from school administrators.
The California law will require co-workers requesting the orders to have “substantial and regular interactions” with gun owners to seek the orders and co-workers and school employees must get approval from their employers or school administrators before seeking them. People seeking the orders will have to file sworn statements specifying their reasons for doing so.
The measure was opposed by gun owners’ rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU said the bill “poses a significant threat to civil liberties” because orders can be sought before gun owners have an opportunity to contest the requests.
While the California law represents a red-flag law on steroids in that expands the categories of individuals who can request gun violence restraining orders, it is, we think, a needed step in the right direction.
President Trump and Congress have failed to take any steps to stem the growing number of mass shootings. As with other similar, though less expansive laws, the need for these gun violence restraining orders is made by a court and, as such, is subject to appeal by those who do not agree with the court’s findings.
While gun owners subject to legal action by red-flag laws may be inconvenienced, we don’t agree that the laws are a threat to civil liberties.