Last week, the California Senate Public Safety Committee passed AB 1014, a gun violence restraining order bill allowing for the temporary removal of firearms from individuals considered at risk for committing acts of violence.
The bill, authored by Assemblymembers Das Williams and Nancy Skinner, was announced in response to the May 23 Isla Vista mass murder, when perpetrator Elliot Rodger killed six UCSB students and injured 13 others before killing himself. AB 1014 now heads to the CA Senate Appropriations Committee for a vote by the entire Senate, and, if passed, the proposed legislation would allow concerned immediate family or healthcare providers to potentially prohibit a suspected individual from acquiring or possessing a firearm.
According to Williams’ Chief of Staff Katie Vavao, if AB 1014 passes, a firearm confiscation request from family or healthcare providers would not necessarily be immediate, nor would it solely act as a sufficient means to remove an individual from firearm access.
“In all cases there is a judge who determines whether to sign and issue the order or not,” Vavao said in an email. “The court must consider threats of violence by the named individual towards himself or others, violations of unexpired restraining orders, and convictions of the named individual for any offenses that would lead to being on the prohibited gun ownership list.”
The first type of gun violence restraining order to prospectively be obtained with AB 1014 would allow immediate family or healthcare providers to request the order ex parte, which lasts temporarily for 14 days and can only be made permanent if the suspected person does not appropriately contest the request, Vavao said.
The second type would allow immediate family or healthcare providers to request an order after notice and a hearing which would last one year, and the third type would allow law enforcement to request an order which would last 14 days, according to Vavao.
“The court may consider reckless use/display of a firearm, history of use of physical force against another person, prior arrests for a felony offense, evidence of recent or ongoing abuse of controlled substances or alcohol, [and] recent acquisition of firearms or other deadly weapons [in determining whether to sign and issue the order],” Vavao said in an email.
In response to AB 1014, President of the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees Brandon Combs stated in an opposition letter to Williams that the bill violates constitutional rights and prohibits gun-owning individuals affected by the prospective gun violence restraining order to request a hearing “due to factors such as residency, school, or work.”
“There is no guarantee that local officials will have the available resources to serve the order in time for the subject to request a hearing, surrender their firearms in accordance with the issued order, acquire child care, seek and be granted time off work, and travel … to be heard,” Combs stated in a public letter to Williams.
Combs also stated that a gun violence restraining order such as AB 1014 would not have prevented Isla Vista mass murder perpetrator Rodger from killing and injuring students, but that “a mental health evaluation and prohibition under existing law might have.”
“In fact, ‘Rodger … had been receiving treatment for years from several psychologists and counselors,’ and yet none of those who knew him to have ‘warning signs that [he] … harbored violent tendencies,’ — including his family and mental health professionals — saw fit to demand a mental health evaluation and hold,” Combs stated.
According to Williams however, AB 1014 would operate within constitutional bounds and opposition to the bill by gun rights advocates is inevitable.
“Our bill preserves due process and has a ‘clear and convincing’ evidence standard of proof,” Williams said. “People who think mentally unstable individuals should have unimpeded possession of firearms just is not going to like my bill.”
Williams also said the main concern by locals affected by the Isla Vista mass murder support AB 1014 and agree that a bill meant to prevent an incident such as May 23’s should be passed.
“I think Santa Barbarans, myself included, think that the priority is saving lives, and wonder, ‘How many more mass killings have to take place before we take action?’” Williams said.
This story is a Daily Nexus online exclusive.