Judges in California can now temporarily order someone's guns confiscated at the request of their immediate family or law enforcement over concerns that they may be dangerous.
The Gun Violence Restraining Order law went into effect Jan. 1 after it was signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September. It was inspired by the 2014 shooting massacre near University of California, Santa Barbara, in the college student community of Isla Vista.
A month before 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people and injured 13 others, his mother had called local police, telling them she was worried he might become a danger to himself or others.
Police did perform a welfare check, but there was no evidence of a crime and no justification for them to seize Rodger's weapons — in spite of his mother's fears about his increasing agitation and threats.
"There was little she could do and little the police could do," state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner said in September, Reuters reported. The Democrat from Berkeley introduced the bill along with a Democratic representative from Santa Barbara.
On Thursday, Los Angeles City Attorney Mike Feuer spoke about how the law would be implemented. Attorneys were working pro-bono to help families understand the law works and how to use it. The city attorney's office would also be coordinating with the Los Angeles Police Department on how the law should be used by officers.
"Gun Violence Restraining Orders will save lives," Feuer said in a statement. "As California becomes the first state to put this landmark law in place, we will do everything possible to make sure it is effective — here in Los Angeles, and throughout the state."
The measure has drawn criticisms from some as a violation of Second Amendment rights.
Under the law, immediate family or law enforcement officials could turn to a judge when they suspect a person would use firearms to harm themselves or others. If the judge determines there is "substantial likelihood" of "significant harm," police would serve an order to the person, who would then have to surrender all guns or ammunition for 21 days. After 21 days, a court hearing would determine if the restraining order should be in place for a longer period.
The law works much like domestic violence restraining orders already to in California, in cases where a person has threatened assault or death. In circumstances where a person may pose a risk because of mental health or other reasons, officials have in the past been more limited.
Gun ownership may be stripped from a person who poses a danger to themself or others and has been hospitalized in a mental facility. Advocates against gun violence have said that, however, allows too many people to fall through the cracks.
Most gun deaths in California each year are due to suicide, the city attorney's office added.
"The GVRO law will allow family members to work with law enforcement and the courts to prevent many of these tragedies from taking place."
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.