New push to tighten gun laws in state

Ef­fort would ease tak­ing un­sta­ble peo­ple’s firearms

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Melody Gu­tier­rez

SACRA­MENTO — As a trou­bling his­tory emerged of the killer who took 12 lives in a South­ern Cal­i­for­nia bar, a San Fran­cisco law­maker said Fri­day he would re­new ef­forts to pass a twice-ve­toed bill that would broaden courts’ abil­ity to tem­po­rar­ily take away guns from un­sta­ble peo­ple.

As­sem­bly­man Phil Ting, D-San Fran­cisco, said he be­lieves he has a bet­ter chance of pass­ing the bill next year for one rea­son: the elec­tion of Gavin New­som as gover­nor.

Gov. Jerry Brown twice ve­toed Ting-au­thored bills that would have al­lowed a broader range of peo­ple to pe­ti­tion a court for gun re­strain­ing or­ders against un­sta­ble peo­ple. New­som said this week he wants to pur­sue ad­di­tional gun-safety bills, in­clud­ing some ve­toed by Brown, leav­ing Ting hope­ful.

The state’s sel­dom-used gun-re­strain­ing-or­der law now al­lows law en­force­ment of­fi­cers, im­me­di­ate fam­ily mem­bers and room­mates to pe­ti­tion a court to re­move guns from a per­son for 21 days. Such re­strain­ing or­ders can be ex­tended for a year.

Ting plans to rein­tro­duce a ver­sion of his ve­toed bills next month. It would al­low teach­ers, co-work­ers and em­ploy­ers to re­quest the or­ders.

“I’m con­vinced this is a good tool,” Ting said.

This week’s mas­sacre was com­mit­ted by a man who opened fire in a bar in Thou­sand Oaks (Ven­tura County) with a hand­gun that had an ex­tended mag­a­zine, au­thor­i­ties said. He killed 12 peo­ple, in­clud­ing a sher­iff ’s sergeant and a Pep­per­dine Univer­sity stu­dent from Napa.

Those who knew the killer,

“I am per­son­ally aware of two mass shoot­ings that did not oc­cur” be­cause of gun re­strain­ing or­ders. Dr. Garen Win­te­mute, UC Firearm Vi­o­lence Re­search Cen­ter di­rec­tor

who was found dead af­ter the mas­sacre, have said he was prone to an­gry out­bursts and pos­si­bly suf­fered from post­trau­matic stress from ser­vice in the Marines. A for­mer high school teacher told the Los An­ge­les Times that he as­saulted her when he was a stu­dent in 2008.

In April, of­fi­cers re­sponded to a dis­tur­bance call at the killer’s home and found him act­ing ir­ra­tionally, said Ven­tura County Sher­iff Ge­off Dean. But, af­ter a men­tal health eval­u­a­tion, the man was deemed not el­i­gi­ble for an in­vol­un­tary psy­chi­atric hold.

Men­tal health ex­perts say too many peo­ple who are un­sta­ble — but not enough so for an in­vol­un­tary hold — are able to pos­sess guns. The state’s gun vi­o­lence re­strain­ing or­der is in­tended to bridge that gap, but the law is sel­dom used.

“I don’t know why his guns weren’t taken away,” Ting said. “And now 12 peo­ple have paid with their lives.”

The first-of-its-kind law was writ­ten by state Sen. Nancy Skin­ner, D-Berke­ley, af­ter a 22-year-old man killed six peo­ple in Isla Vista near UC Santa Bar­bara in 2014. Be­fore those slay­ings, the killer’s mother had ex­pressed con­cerns about his men­tal health af­ter see­ing his on­line post­ings. That prompted a well­ness check by po­lice, but law en­force­ment of­fi­cials said there was lit­tle else they could do.

Since Cal­i­for­nia passed its gun-re­strain­ing-or­der law, 13 states have en­acted sim­i­lar poli­cies, in­clud­ing eight states this year, said Garen Win­te­mute, an emer­gency room doc­tor at UC Davis Med­i­cal Cen­ter in Sacra­mento and di­rec­tor of the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia Firearm Vi­o­lence Re­search Cen­ter.

The cen­ter is col­lect­ing and eval­u­at­ing data from gun-re­strain­ing-or­der cases in Cal­i­for­nia. It has found a steady in­crease each year since the law took ef­fect in 2016.

Still, the law is vastly un­der­used, Win­te­mute said. It is ef­fec­tive in the cases in which it has been in­voked, he said.

“I am per­son­ally aware of two mass shoot­ings that did not oc­cur” be­cause of gun re­strain­ing or­ders, Win­te­mute said.

He said that in those cases, both in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, a per­son made a cred­i­ble threat and then tried to buy guns. Dur­ing the state’s 10-day wait­ing pe­riod, of­fi­cers filed gun re­strain­ing or­ders that pre­vented the two from buy­ing firearms.

“Cal­i­for­nia has been be­hind the curve in get­ting the word out that th­ese even ex­ist,” Win­te­mute said. “We’ve had maybe 300 over the three years, and we are a state with 40 mil­lion peo­ple.”

The gun re­strain­ing or­der is sim­i­lar to ob­tain­ing a do­mes­tic vi­o­lence re­strain­ing or­der. Peo­ple who are sub­ject to one are also barred from buy­ing firearms or am­mu­ni­tion.

Statewide, 189 pe­ti­tions for gun vi­o­lence re­strain­ing or­ders were granted in 2016 and 2017, state Jus­tice Depart­ment fig­ures show. Data from 2018 were not avail­able Fri­day.

Fam­ily mem­bers ac­counted for just 12 of those re­quests in 2016 and 2017 — the rest came from law en­force­ment.

In Ven­tura County, where the bar mas­sacre hap­pened, law en­force­ment of­fi­cials used the law four times in 2016 and 2017. None of the gun re­strain­ing or­ders came at the re­quest of fam­ily mem­bers or room­mates.

Ting said the state needs to do more to en­sure that of­fi­cers and the pub­lic know that the law ex­ists. His pre­vi­ous bills have faced op­po­si­tion from both the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union and the Na­tional Ri­fle As­so­ci­a­tion, an un­likely pair­ing in the state Capi­tol. The ACLU op­posed the mea­sure be­cause it feared it could be used against peo­ple who weren’t ac­tu­ally un­sta­ble.

Craig DeLuz, a spokesman for the Firearms Pol­icy Coali­tion, a gun-rights group in Sacra­mento, said gun re­strain­ing or­ders are un­fairly granted be­fore a per­son has a chance to re­spond.

“Peo­ple have a right to due process,” DeLuz said Fri­day. “If we get rid of due process in this case, what is pro­hibit­ing that from hap­pen­ing in other in­stances?”

Apu Gomes / AFP / Getty Images

A woman places a can­dle at a memo­rial to the vic­tims of a mass shoot­ing at a bar in Thou­sand Oaks (Ven­tura County) this week.

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