California sees record number of guns confiscated under ‘red flag’ law, officials say

Police investigate a mass shooting in Orange that claimed the lives of four people, including a 9-year-old boy, on March 31, 2021. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times)

Five years ago, California became one of the first states in the nation to enact a so-called red flag gun law, allowing family members and police officers to ask a court to block those believed to be a risk to themselves or others from having firearms. Now, as other legislatures weigh adopting similar laws, state officials said Friday that a record 1,285 gun-violence restraining orders were issued by judges in California last year, temporarily removing firearms from people deemed a danger.

Though many courts were operating under restrictions or remotely because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they received petitions for the orders at a greater rate than the year before, when guns were taken from 1,110 people.

“I’m glad that Californians have a tool to intervene to save lives and prevent tragedies,” said Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), who authored a bill last year that expanded those eligible to ask judges for orders to employers, co-workers and school employees.

The law took effect in in 2016 following the 2014 attack in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara in which six people were killed and 14 were injured when a 22-year-old man went on a rampage of shooting, stabbing and striking people with a car before killing himself. Family members of gunman Elliot Rodger had alerted the police that they were concerned about his behavior, but officers who checked with him were not aware he had bought guns.

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