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The Need for a Red Flag

The Gun Violence Restraining Order Offers a Tool to Intervene

Credit: Bill Schorr, PoliticalCartoons.com

Gilroy. El Paso. Dayton. We cannot forget these grieving cities, added to an ever-growing list that includes one of our own communities: Isla Vista.

It’s the details of the El Paso shooting that I can’t shake. The manifesto released by the shooter in El Paso is too similar to that released by the Isla Vista shooter. Both steeped in hatred. The El Paso manifesto — hatred of immigrants. The Isla Vista shooter — hatred of women. It’s caused me to ruminate on one question: When are we going to take the threat of white supremacy, toxic masculinity, and their ties to domestic terrorism seriously?

As an elected official, I can’t wrap my head around it. It is literally our job to ensure our constituents have safe, healthy communities to live in. After the Isla Vista shooting, I co-authored a successful piece of legislation with then-assemblymember Nancy Skinner and our Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, creating the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), modeled after the Domestic Violence Restraining Order. The GVRO allows concerned family members, intimate partners, or friends to work with law enforcement and the courts to temporarily remove guns or prevent the purchase of new guns if someone is found to be demonstrating behavior that may indicate they are likely to commit violence against others or themselves.

How many times have we read, in the aftermath of one of these shootings, that someone close to the individual raised concerns in the days leading up to the horrifying event? It was the case in Isla Vista. The GVRO gives law enforcement a tool with which to intervene before tragedy strikes while ensuring due process. It’s a system that has been proven to work. Locally, Santa Barbara County has issued around 40 GVROs. We’re still working on getting the data statewide. Shortly after implementation of the GVRO, I was asked to participate in a public awareness campaign because the GVRO was mostly only being used in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties due to lack of awareness by local law enforcement agencies and citizens.

It’s critical for people to understand that, in the State of California and 16 other states, this tool exists if they have concerns about a loved one. You can contact law enforcement about these concerns, and they have a path to take action if it’s deemed necessary. If you or someone you know wants to begin the process, there is even an online portal: www.speakforsafety.org.

Our Congressmember Salud Carbajal has authored similar legislation at the federal level, H.R. 1236. It’s currently sitting in the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security. A 2018 poll determined 85 percent of registered voters support such laws. We may even finally have bipartisan support for such a measure. So, what are we waiting for?

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