Six Years Later, Why is California’s Red Flag Gun Law Failing?

California’s “Red Flag” law was introduced in 2016, but so far San Diego seems to be the only jurisdiction using it effectively

California is known to have some of the strictest gun control laws in the county, so why is the rest of the state failing where San Diego succeeds?

Ever since California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO)—one of the first “Red Flag” laws across the U.S. that make it easier for authorities to remove firearms from those believed to pose a threat—was introduced in 2016, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliot and her eight-member team have filed over 1,250 successful GRVOs. This should make San Diego stand out as a model for other agencies across the state, but, as CalMatters reports, many of them have only recently begun restructuring their programs to take advantage of the GVRO option.

According to San Diego Deputy City Attorney Jeff Brooker, that’s the problem. Brooker tells Voice of San Diego that Red Flag laws represent a “paradigm shift” with agencies across the state looking ahead rather than remaining solely reactive.

San Diego’s GVRO team, led by Brooker, has filed restraining orders that led to the seizure of firearms from 865 people—placing them comfortably ahead of any other agency in the state—about a third of which are eventually returned. Brooker’s group have become the go-to resource for agencies looking to better their programs. Brooker, who has received more than 100 calls since January, said, “I get calls all the time where [police] tell me we just prevented a shooting.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Gavin Newson launched an $11 million campaign to promote the use of GVROs, which includes $1 million going to the San Diego City Attorney’s Office to provide GVRO training and education programs to law enforcement agencies around the state.

While close relatives, employers, school officials, and co-workers can file the GVROs, San Diego law enforcement has initiated the vast majority of cases. Because of this, despite their effectiveness in San Diego, the team has faced scrutiny from second amendment activists.

Acknowledging blowback from concerned gun-owners, Brooker told CalMatters he’s careful about filing GVRO cases, stating that every petition is investigated by retired police officers to ensure that the potential threat is not based on unvetted evidence or an old history of violence.

“I know they’re waiting for us to file one bad case so they can jump all over us,” he said. “That’s the case that’s going to bite us.”

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