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San Diego County noted as major driver in gun violence restraining order use

Posted at 1:28 PM, Jul 01, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-01 16:28:02-04

SAN DIEGO (CNS) - San Diego County's use and support of gun violence restraining orders as a preventive measure is cited as one of the major drivers in the orders' increasing implementation statewide in a recently published study.

The UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program examined the use of extreme risk protection orders -- or ERPOs -- in California between 2016 and 2019, noting a "substantial increase" in their usage over those years.

San Diego County had the most notable increase among California counties, issuing 267 gun violence restraining orders -- or GVROs -- in 2019, versus just five in 2016, according to the study that was published in June in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Throughout California, their use grew from 70 in 2016 to 700 last year.

The orders allow law enforcement to temporarily seize firearms from people believed to be at risk to themselves or others.

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott's public endorsement of GVROs, development of a GVRO team and law enforcement training strategy were suggested as possible reasons for the disproportionate use of the orders in San Diego County and southern California as a whole.

The study found that gun violence restraining order laws could be useful in prevention of mass shootings, suicides and "interpersonal violence."

To that effect, the study cited two instances of GVROs issued in San Diego, one that was granted against a man with dementia who made threats to shoot his wife and neighbor, and another to seize a semiautomatic rifle from a man "who praised a recent mass shooter and made threats to bring his gun to work."

Elliott's office has publicly detailed numerous other instances of GVROs served on local residents, including minors.

"It is encouraging to see our impact on California's use of this indispensable tool to prevent suicides, mass shootings, intimate partner homicides and other gun-related violence," Elliott said in a statement released Wednesday. "Red flag laws allow us to be proactive in identifying dangerous behavior so that we can avert a tragedy before it occurs, and I'm hopeful GVRO use will continue to rapidly grow."

However, the study indicates there are many unknowns regarding GVRO use and effectiveness.

GVRO use grew rapidly in 2019, and more study is needed to determine whether the increase in its use represented an increased need for the orders or simply marked a greater awareness of their availability, according to the study.

While their use in California suggests GVROs "filled a gap in existing firearm violence prevention strategies," the study states more data is needed, as current data does not "allow us to measure the policy's effects on violence prevention."

Their use in California also does not entirely allow for direct comparison with other states, due to differences in firearm laws. The study's authors suggest similar studies conducted in other states may shed more light on their effectiveness across the country.

ERPO laws and policies are currently utilized in 19 states and the District of Columbia, and are under consideration in other jurisdictions, "however, little research exists describing their use," the study's authors found.