Tell the Irvine City Council to Agendize the Proposal to Educate Residents and Law Enforcement about California’s Red Flag Law and Gun Violence Restraining Orders

California has a “red flag law” that allows family members or police to seek a court order to temporarily remove guns from mentally unstable people, but too few are aware of it. I have asked the mayor to place my proposal that Irvine educate our residents and police about California’s red flag law and its appropriate use on the City Council agenda. 

Here is the memo that I sent to the mayor:

“​Re: Reducing Gun Violence and California’s Red Flag Law

After the May 2014 mass shooting in Isla Vista in which a mentally unstable young man killed six people and injured fourteen others before killing himself, California passed a ‘red flag law’ that empowers family members and law enforcement officers to petition a court to obtain a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” (GVRO) to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are an immediate and present danger of harming themselves or others.

Red flags laws have now been passed in 17 states and several more states are considering such laws. Red flag laws have been supported by both Republicans and Democrats. In the aftermath of the recent mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, President Trump declared that ‘We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms and that if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process. . . That is why I have called for red flag laws, also known as extreme risk protection orders.’

Red flag laws are not just meant to prevent mass shootings. September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. Nearly two-thirds of the gun deaths in the United States — over 22,000 per year — are suicides. Eighty-three percent of suicide attempts by gun succeed; suicide attempts by other means are fatal only 5% of the time. A GRVO can save lives by temporarily preventing a loved one from accessing the most lethal form of suicide until the crisis passes, giving them a chance to get the help they need.

But for red flag laws to be effective, it is important that members of the public and local police officers are aware of the law and encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders when appropriate. Unfortunately, awareness of our red flag law is not nearly as widespread as it should be.

​I am proposing that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVRO’s when appropriate.

I am requesting that this item be placed on the agenda for the Irvine City Council.”

Due to the City Council’s new restrictive agenda policy, which prohibits an item from being placed on the agenda unless the mayor or two city council members agree to do so, I can not place this item on the agenda without the support of the mayor or other councilmembers.  Accordingly, I have asked Irvine Mayor Christina Shea to agree to put this proposal on the Irvine City Council agenda.

Red flag laws save lives.

A recent study by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine found that California’s red flag law has significantly reduced gun violence. According to Laura Cutilletta, legal director of the Giffords Law Center, California’s red flag law acts as a sort of timeout, so someone in psychological distress can get counseling while their fitness to possess a gun is evaluated.  “It’s a way to allow for temporary removal of firearms in a situation just like this: where somebody has made threats, where they have been expelled from school because of those threats, they’re in counseling, and parents or the school or whoever it is understands that this person poses a threat,” she explained.

OC Sheriff’s deputies in Mission Viejo successfully petitioned the court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

However, the effectiveness of the red flag law has been limited by the lack of awareness of the law on the part of both the public and the police.  Too often, neither the public nor the local police are aware of or encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

A national organization, Speak for Safety, has formed for the specific purpose of raising awareness of the Gun Violence Restraining Order as a tool to remove firearms and ammunition from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Recently, deputies from the Orange County Sheriff’s Department  a domestic violence victim in Mission Viejo who feared for her family’s safety. Deputies petitioned the courts for a Gun Violence Restraining Order and an Emergency Protective Order. They temporarily removed over 22 firearms and 3,000 rounds of ammunition from the home. All the firearms were legally obtained by the suspect who was arrested for domestic violence.

But too often, neither family members nor law enforcement personnel know that such a gun violence prevention tool exists, even in states, like California, that have very effective GVRO laws on the books.

This the reason I have proposed  that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness and education program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVROs whenever appropriate.

Please join me in this effort by contacting the Mayor and the Irvine City Council and urging them to support this common sense proposal to use California’s existing red flag law to prevent gun violence and save lives in Irvine.

Let’s Reduce Gun Violence By Educating the Public and Training Our Police to Use California’s “Red Flag” Law

California has some of the country’s strictest gun control laws; these laws are likely the reason that California has one of the lowest overall gun deaths per capita in the nation.

Yet, as the recent mass shooting in Gilroy shows, our state laws are not enough, by themselves, to prevent our residents from becoming victims of gun violence. In order to better protect our residents in California from gun violence, two more crucial steps need to be taken.

One of these steps — and by far the most important — is that Federal gun regulations must catch-up to California’s. 

The assault rifle used in the mass shooting in Gilroy is banned in California, but it is legal in our neighboring state of Nevada, where it was legally bought by the killer three weeks before the shooting.

The killer also had several high capacity magazines for the weapon, which are also illegal in California, but not in Nevada where they were bought.

Until the federal government finds the courage to defy the NRA and the gun dealer lobby, it will be very difficult to prevent these weapons of war from other states from being brought into and used in California.

For this reason, national action on gun violence should be advocated by everyone in California who cares about reducing gun violence.  Politicians who support the current president’s policy of giving veto power over federal gun regulations to the gun dealer lobby are undermining the effectiveness of California’s gun laws. For California to be safe, assault rifles and large capacity magazines must be outlawed in all of the states.

But another important step can be taken now, by us, even at the local level. That step is to inform and educate the public — and train our police officers — on the effective use of California’s gun regulations that are already on the books.

Perhaps the most important of these gun regulations is California’s “red flag” law, which empowers family members and law enforcement officers to petition courts to obtain a “Gun Violence Restraining Order” (GVRO) to temporarily limit a person’s access to guns if they are an “immediate and present danger” of harming themselves or others.

In 2014, California became the first state to let family members ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat.  The “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law (California Penal Code Section 18100 et sec), modeled after domestic violence restraining orders, allows police or family members to obtain a judge’s order to disarm a gun owner they fear will turn violent. The order requires the gun owner to surrender all firearms for 21 days, and can be extended to a full year after a hearing.

The California legislature took action after a mentally ill man killed six students and wounded 13 others near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before killing himself. Authorities were legally unable to confiscate the weapons of the killer, despite his family’s having expressed concerns to authorities that he would become violent.

California’s law also empowers police to petition for the protective orders, which can require authorities to remove firearms for up to one year. Fifteen states and the District of Columbia have since adopted similar laws.

Red flag laws save lives.

A recent study by the U.C. Davis School of Medicine found that California’s red flag law has significantly reduced gun violence.

According to Laura Cutilletta, legal director of the Giffords Law Center, California’s red flag law acts as a sort of timeout, so someone in psychological distress can get counseling while their fitness to possess a gun is evaluated.  “It’s a way to allow for temporary removal of firearms in a situation just like this: where somebody has made threats, where they have been expelled from school because of those threats, they’re in counseling, and parents or the school or whoever it is understands that this person poses a threat,” she explained.

However, the effectiveness of the red flag law has been limited by the lack of awareness of the law on the part of both the public and the police.  Too often, neither the public nor the local police are aware of or encouraged to obtain Gun Violence Restraining Orders.

A national organization, Speak for Safety, has formed for the specific purpose of raising awareness of the Gun Violence Restraining Order as a tool to remove firearms and ammunition from people who are an immediate danger to themselves or others.

Too often, neither family members nor law enforcement personnel know that such a gun violence prevention tool exists, even in states, like California, that have very effective GVRO laws on the books.

San Diego is an exception.  Since 2017, San Diego County has issued more than 300 orders, more than any other county in the state. They have been used to intervene in escalating cases of domestic violence, to prevent potential suicides, and with people with potentially dangerous mental illness. In the end, the police have seized more than 400 weapons and nearly 80,000 rounds of ammunition. As San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott has stated, ““We have no problem with responsible people having guns,” she said. “Our concern are the people who are no longer responsible. That’s when we’ll step in.”

Student march on Harvard Avenue in Irvine for stricter gun control. Photo: Jeff Gritchen, Orange County Register/SCNG).

The San Diego City Attorney’s office has been given a grant by the State of California to provide this training.  According to the San Diego City Attorney’s office, “Using case studies, we explain ways to apply the law, describe the process for obtaining a GVRO, and address complex issues concerning domestic violence, juveniles and individuals with neurological disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. We also devote a significant amount of time to the topics of service, search warrants and seizure (firearms). The curriculum is directed at those responsible for implementing and coordinating a GVRO program at their agencies. Typically, all forms of law enforcement and city attorneys, with law enforcement clients, would directly benefit from this event. We have received nothing but positive feedback, increased interest and requests for more training from the law enforcement agencies and city attorneys we have worked with so far.”

You can see San Diego’s slide presentation about California’s red flag law here.

I believe that Irvine should also be a leader in utilizing the common sense gun control regulations that are already on the books.

Therefore, I will propose that the Irvine City Council work with City Staff and the Irvine Police Department to devise and implement a public awareness and education program regarding California’s red flag law, hold training sessions on the red flag law for members of the Irvine Police Department, and direct our law enforcement officers to use GVROs whenever appropriate.  We should contact both the San Diego City Attorney’s Office and the State of California about providing us with assistance with red flag training, procedures, and protocols.

Please join me in this effort by contacting the Mayor and the Irvine City Council and urging them to support this common sense proposal to use California’s existing red flag law to prevent gun violence and save lives in Irvine.

Everyone who knows someone who may be at risk of hurting themselves or others with a gun, should know how to “Speak for Safety” with a GVRO.

Sign our petition for common sense gun regulation here.