Making Our Communities Safer with CA’s ‘Red Flag’ Law

Dear Constituent, 

All of us are concerned about gun violence, and it’s clear there’s more to do to make our communities safer.

One tool available to all of us is California’s “Red Flag” law, also known as a gun violence restraining order (GVRO). It is one of a number of “firearm-prohibiting orders” that are proven to be effective, but have been underutilized. These orders work by temporarily removing guns from people who pose a serious threat to themselves or others.

Our red flag law allows police, immediate family members, household members, teachers and school personnel, and employers or co-workers to obtain a GVRO to temporarily seize guns from a person who is a threat to harm themselves or others.

California’s red flag law has shown to be particularly effective in preventing mass shootings and suicides. According to research from UC Davis, GVROs have prevented dozens of mass shootings in California since our law went into effect.

This is an issue I care deeply about. I wrote California’s first-in-the-nation GVRO law, AB 1014, a decade ago when I was in the state Assembly. AB 1014 was in response to a tragic mass shooting in the town of Isla Vista, adjacent to UC Santa Barbara. In that case, the shooter’s mother had warned law enforcement about the grave dangers her son posed, but there was no legal mechanism at the time for police to search his home and take away his firearms. In all, he killed six people and himself.

Recently, our red flag law prevented a mass killing at a high school in San Diego. In that case, a teen had been making a series of threats against other students, and school personnel alerted police. Law enforcement then obtained a GVRO and confiscated a stockpile of deadly weapons and explosives at the family’s home before the teen could use them.

Over the past year, my office has worked with East Bay law enforcement to raise awareness about the effectiveness of GVROs and other firearm-prohibiting orders, and to encourage our local police to make full use of them. We’re also planning a workshop for school officials on how these gun violence prevention tools work and how they can be used when necessary to protect students and staff.

As I noted above, individuals can also help make our communities safer by seeking a GVRO if an immediate family or household member, co-worker, or employee poses a serious threat to themselves or others. The fastest and safest way to do obtain a GVRO is to immediately contact local law enforcement. Police and other sworn officers can obtain a GVRO quickly and remove the firearms before anyone gets seriously hurt.

Alternatively, you can also petition a court yourself. Law enforcement will then use the order issued by the court to confiscate the guns.

Earlier this year, I introduced new legislation, SB 899, to strengthen California’s red flag law and other firearm-prohibiting orders. SB 899 would make it easier for California courts to ensure that people who are deemed a threat to themselves or others no longer have access to firearms.

In a future e-newsletter, I’ll discuss California’s other firearm-prohibiting orders, including the state’s highly effective Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) law. I’ll also describe how each order works and the circumstances under which each order is most effective.

Reducing gun violence is a collaborative effort. The good news is: We’re already a national leader in the fight against gun violence.

But there’s definitely more we can do. A good place to start is to fully use the gun violence prevention tools we already have in place, especially GVROs. They’ll make our communities safer. We know they work.

I hope you find this information useful. It is an honor serving you in the state Senate.




Nancy Skinner