In the wake of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting massacre that killed 17 students and staff, Santa Barbara Rep. Salud Carbajal and four of his congressional colleagues urged movement this week on House Bill 2598, the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) Act. The bill, introduced by Carbajal last May, would enable family members or law enforcement officials to petition a court to temporarily stop someone suspected of posing a serious threat to themselves or others from buying or possessing a firearm. With a court-ordered “gun violence prevention warrant,” police could confiscate any guns owned by a person deemed dangerous for up to a year, after which the firearms would be returned or the order renewed. The GVRO Act was inspired by a similar California state bill drafted by then-assemblymember Das Williams and signed by Governor Jerry Brown after the 2014 Isla Vista killings.
“Clearly, from all I’ve read, this was a guy in crisis,” Carbajal said of the Florida shooter, Nikolas Cruz. “There were warning signs.” While Cruz raised a number of red flags, it doesn’t appear he underwent any mental health treatment and so wasn’t added to a list that would have precluded him from owning a gun. “All they needed was a tool like the one already being used here in California,” said Carbajal, who pilloried Republicans for their inaction after each new mass shooting. “I’m tired of my colleagues on other side of aisle giving their thoughts and prayers,” he said. “Quite frankly, I’m frustrated and angry that they haven’t shown one iota of leadership on such an important issue.” Carbajal said he hopes to earn the support of more moderate Republicans who see his bill as “reasonable.”
Since Williams’s bill became law, authorities statewide have pointed to many instances where emergency firearm protective orders likely prevented gun violence. In Santa Barbara County, in March 2016, Sheriff’s deputies made contact with an intoxicated 43-year-old man who had assaulted and threatened to strangle his girlfriend unconscious. He was arrested and two of his handguns were temporarily seized. In April 2016, a 59-year-old Carpinteria woman was served with a firearm protective order after she threatened to shoot a co-worker who’d filed a harassment case against her. And in May 2016, a 62-year-old walked into a Santa Maria supermarket with a handgun sticking out of his bag. A concerned shopper grabbed the bag and called police. Family members said the man was experiencing mental health issues, making bizarre statements and suffering bouts of paranoia. The man was ultimately placed on an involuntary medical hold, and his gun was confiscated.