California cities pushing to "educate" about red flag laws

(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Red flag laws are one of those things that sounds good in principle, but become far less attractive the more time you think about them. So long as you, you know, actually think about them.


Many people don’t. They see that the idea is to take guns from those who may represent a risk temporarily, then evaluate them later to see if those guns should be taken for longer, and never think about the implications of that.

After all, many of them have never been called “dangerous” when they’re nothing of the sort.

But in California, a lot of lawmakers like red flag laws. That’s why they passed one there.

However, it seems mayors in a couple of their major cities are less than pleased that the law is used infrequently.

Three mass shootings in California this month have brought renewed attention to the state’s gun violence prevention laws, known as red flag laws, that allow courts to remove firearms from someone deemed a danger to themselves or others.

But many California residents don’t know about the laws, according to researchers at UC Davis, limiting their potential. And it’s been a slow rollout training and staffing law enforcement agencies to enforce gun violence restraining orders, which temporarily prohibit someone from having a firearm.

“Often in the aftermath of tragedies such as mass shootings, we hear about red flags displayed by the perpetrator that could have signaled an impending crisis or trauma,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said in a public statement this week. “Criminal and civil orders that result in the removal of firearms are critical tools that can help save lives, but they are severely underutilized. When you have concerns that someone may pose a threat, we encourage you to act.”

San Francisco and San Diego are two cities trying to boost utilization of red flag laws to help get guns out of potentially dangerous situations.

“Red flag laws are an incredibly important tool,” said San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu, whose office processes requests for gun violence restraining orders. “In our first few years, we have removed firearms in several dozen highly dangerous circumstances.”


It seems that part of the problem there is that few Californians have ever heard of “gun violence restraining orders” in the first place.

I suspect if you asked them about red flag laws, their answers might be different, but regardless, lawmakers in the state are upset because people don’t seem to be using them. That’s a bigger problem than it might seem because the only metric we’ve seen used to say they were is how often such orders are issued.

However, the truth is that many people simply don’t think their loved ones are going to do anything particularly dangerous or violent. They also don’t seek to disarm them, even if they suspect something is wrong, because they often don’t know they have guns.

The truth of the matter is that states like California have demonized guns to such a degree that gun owners often don’t tell people they own firearms. Well, when loved ones don’t know their family member has guns, why would they seek out such an order in the first place?

Then there’s the possibility that folks really don’t know that’s an option.


However, with the first two things in play, I doubt it would matter all that much anyway.

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