California Gov. Jerry Brown has just signed into law a bill allowing family members to report relatives who they deem to be a threat, which then allows the state to step in and remove any firearms, USA Today reports.
The bill was proposed by Democrats based on the shooting at the University of California, Santa Barbara earlier this year by Elliot Rodger, whose parents had informed the police of the danger he posed.
Despite his parents urging his therapist to contact mental health officials, Rodger was able to convince officers he was completely harmless, resulting in a deadly shooting soon after. Similar legislation already exists in Connecticut, Indiana and Texas, but this bill is the first of its kind to transfer the authority traditionally held by law enforcement authorities to family members.
Democratic state legislators Nancy Skinner and Das Williams introduced the legislation, amid protests from some lawmakers.
“Every one of us wants to prevent a mass shooting,” said Tim Donnelly, a California assemblyman and gun rights proponent. “The question is: Would this bill stop that? I don’t believe you can ever stop that with laws. I don’t believe you can legislate evil out of the hearts of men.”
But opposing gun control has been difficult in California, as the legislature is controlled by Democrats. The only saving grace for Republicans has been Brown, who has vetoed several gun-control bills in the past. But not this time.
The bill stipulates that anyone who reports the threat must sign an affidavit under oath. The consequence of lying is a possible misdemeanor. Within 14 days of the restraining order, a court hearing must be held to give the gun owner an opportunity to argue his case, to argue that there is no danger.
Prior to the signing of the bill, guns could only be seized in California if the owner is mentally unstable, has a prior record of misdemeanors, or is under a domestic violence restraining order.
“It’s hard to know how much it will be used or how much it will prevent,” said Amanda Wilcox, an advocate for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “It only takes avoiding one loss for this to be worth it.”
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