San Diego Issues Its First Extreme Risk Protection Order

San Diego has officially issued its first long-term gun violence restraining order, more commonly known as an extreme risk protection order (ERPO).

Last month, a 39-year-old man from San Carlos was arrested for firing his gun at trees, small animals and into his neighbor’s backyard while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. According to San Diego police, the man’s blood-alcohol level was at .25 percent at the time of his arrest, more than three times the legal limit for California drivers.

Charges were filed, and, just last week, the man was ordered by a superior court judge to give up possession of his firearms for a year. He will also be prohibited from purchasing any guns or ammunition during that time.

As previously mentioned, this is the first order issued by the city since California established ERPOs in 2016. The law, which was actually passed back in 2014 but didn’t take effect until two years later, allows family members, law enforcement officers and even roommates to file a petition with the court to deny a person access to guns and ammunition if they believe that person is an imminent threat to themselves or others.

“A gun violence restraining order is a relatively new and powerful tool law enforcement can use to prevent future gun-related tragedies,” City Attorney Mara Elliott said in a statement, according to the San Diego Tribune. “It was grossly negligent for this individual to fire a gun in a densely populated neighborhood [referring to the San Carlos man who was recently issued the ERPO]. This kind of conduct all too often leads to the loss of innocent lives.”

Elliott is correct when she says it was grossly negligent for this man to fire his gun into a densely populated area. That’s firearm safety 101: always fire in a safe direction and always know what’s beyond your target. Not to mention, the man was extremely intoxicated and apparently high as a kite. That’s not just poor gun safety, it’s a complete lack of common sense. The guy was example #5,021,253 of what not to do with your firearm. But, despite what Elliott and many other anti-gunners may think, he’s not a good enough example to justify ERPOs.

First, it sounds like police could’ve nailed this guy without a long-term gun violence restraining order. Negligently discharging a firearm in California, depending on the circumstances, can be considered a misdemeanor or a felony. If he was charged with a felony, then he’d be required to hand over his guns anyways, since you cannot legally own a firearm in any state with such a charge on your record.

Second, while the report doesn’t offer up all the facts, there’s a chance this guy has a real alcohol or drug abuse problem. If that’s the case, then why wasn’t he offered any sort of help? Critics of ERPOs pointed this out when Oregon established them in 2017. They do not address the root problem, meaning this person whose guns you just took could still very well find another way to harm him/herself or others.

Lastly, and most importantly, there is a complete lack of due process here. You’re essentially letting a non-mental health professional who may barely know this person determine whether or not they get to hold onto their Second Amendment rights.

While California and other states have put some checks in place to ensure anti-gunners aren’t filing “fake petitions,” they’re simply not enough – because what’s considered a serious petition may vary depending on who you ask.

In 2016, the first year the law went into effect, California issued 86 gun violence restraining orders. That’s 86 people who could have wrongfully been stripped of their Constitutional right to bear arms. Now, that’s not to say that some of those people didn’t deserve to have their guns taken away. But if that were the case, there was likely a right way to go about it.

Aug 18, 2022 5:30 PM ET