Congressmember Salud Carbajal | Credit: Office of Congressmember Salud Carbajal

Red flag laws are personal to him, Congressmember Salud Carbajal wrote to Senate leaders, explaining that his bill, HR 3480, would allow family members who believe a person is a threat to themselves or someone else to petition the courts to remove their firearms. Carbajal told the senators, “Eight years ago this week, my alma mater University of California Santa Barbara saw six murdered in a mass shooting by a young man who had shown such stark signs of threat to his community that his own mother warned local law enforcement of his desire to hurt others.” Three college students were shot and three stabbed to death in Isla Vista on May 23, 2014, shocking the campus and the Santa Barbara community, where Carbajal was a county supervisor at the time.

Carbajal wrote the letter after the murders of schoolchildren in Uvalde, Texas, to rally support for a parallel bill in the Senate, sponsored by Senator Dianne Feinstein, to encourage states through federal grants to enact similar laws, which have proved effective in cases involving domestic violence in 19 states, including in California.

After taking office in 2017, Carbajal proposed the first version of the Extreme Risk Protection Order Act that year, and nine Republicans joined 133 Democrats in sponsoring the bill, which never passed out of committee. The current bill has 101 Democrat sponsors and remains in the Judiciary Committee.

California’s “extreme risk” laws passed in late 2014 and came into effect in 2016, and they include a due process procedure that allows the individual to appear in court to argue against the restraining order. Such orders would allow more than law enforcement officials and family members to request the removal of firearms, extending to household members, employers, co-workers, and teachers. A judge must decide whether to grant or deny the restraining order based on threats made, violence exhibited, violations of domestic violence protective orders, or conviction of a crime that bans the person from buying or owning a gun. After a year, the individual can ask the court to remove the restraining order.

Among the 50 U.S. states, California has among the most restrictive gun laws. One suffused with controversy is the assault weapons ban, which prohibits sales in the state of semi-automatic weapons classified by the state as assault weapons, Browning machine guns of .50 caliber, and ammunition magazines containing more than 10 bullets. The school shooting in Uvalde that killed 19 children and two teachers was carried out with AR-type semi-automatic weapons and 30-bullet magazines. The California ban has been ruled unconstitutional, appealed, vacated, and currently remains on appeal and in effect.

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