Highlights Suite of Laws Aimed at Keeping Californians Safe from Gun Violence, including Statewide Campaign to Raise Awareness of Temporary Gun Violence Restraining Orders
SACRAMENTO –State leaders today marked 10 years since the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School mass shooting that killed 20 children and six educators and shook the nation’s conscience. As California continues to lead the way in protecting children and loved ones from gun violence, it’s critical California communities know about the life-saving resources available to them.
“Today we honor the Sandy Hook families and all survivors of gun violence – knowing that nothing can take away their pain,” said Mark Ghilarducci, Director of Cal OES. “In California, we honor their lives with action by enacting and aggressively implementing the country’s strongest gun safety laws to protect our communities, our loved ones and our children. We must never become numb to the epidemic of gun violence.”
Under Governor Newsom’s leadership and the action elected leaders from across the spectrum, California has launched a suite of nation-leading community safety and gun violence prevention efforts. California has worked to give law enforcement, families, doctors and communities alike improved tools to keep people safe.
“Today, ten years after the senseless and tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we grieve with too many victims, families, and survivors whose lives have been ripped apart by gun violence. Thoughts and prayers aren’t enough: In California, we’re recommitting to bold action,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Every day, we will continue working tirelessly to protect our communities by seizing illegally held firearms, cracking down on untraceable ghost guns, expanding and enforcing California’s nation-leading gun laws, and working with advocates, survivors, and stakeholders to find holistic solutions to address America’s gun violence epidemic through our first-in-the-nation Office of Gun Violence Prevention. As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I stand shoulder to shoulder with Governor Newsom and our federal, state, and local partners in our fight to rid our communities of senseless gun violence.”
Chiefly among these efforts is an $11 million campaign to make California schools and communities safer through a community-based outreach campaign to promote temporary Gun Violence Restraining Orders, also known as “red flag” laws. They allow for the temporary removal of guns and ammunition from someone at risk of harming themselves or others. This law empowers loved ones to intervene and prevent someone in crisis from accessing firearms.
Administered through the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (Cal OES), this statewide effort focuses on educating families and loved ones on the tools they have at their disposal to prevent gun violence.
California’s Data on Gun Violence Restraining Orders
California issued 3,007 temporary Gun Violence Restraining Orders from 2016 to 2020 and is considered a powerful tool to prevent mass shootings. Research from UC Davis shows they have been used in 58 threatened mass shootings in California.
This law is also helpful in preventing firearm suicides, which account for more than half of the country’s gun deaths. For example, after Connecticut increased the enforcement of its red flag law, one study found the law to be associated with a 14-percent reduction in the state’s firearm suicide rate.
“In the ten years since Sandy Hook, California has been at the helm in passing nation-leading gun laws and violence prevention programs for our schools,” said Tony Thurmond, State Superintendent of Public Instruction. “Schools alone cannot prevent and bear the full burden of gun violence; arming teachers is not an answer and solely focusing on mental health or shooter preparation isn’t sufficient. As California continues to take a science-based public-health approach to gun violence, we must keep prioritizing prevention, early intervention, and collaboration among all members of school communities and state agencies that support our schools.”
“The effects of gun violence reach beyond victims and families and contribute to the daily stress we feel,” said California Surgeon General Dr. Diana Ramos. “Entire communities are shaken when lives are cut short by gunfire, especially when they occur in places where we work, worship, live and learn – places that we should feel safe and comfortable. We will never forget the senseless actions of that day and we honor those impacted through words and actions.”
Applying for Gun Violence Restraining Orders
Californians who are concerned that someone is a risk to themselves or others and has access to a gun may apply for a Gun Violence Restraining Order or learn more at California Courts Judicial Branch of California.
The State’s Gun Safety Laws
Temporary Gun Violence Restraining Orders are just one of a suite of laws designed to keep Californians safe. In fact, in 2021, California was ranked as the first state in the nation for gun safety by Giffords Law Center, and, in that same year, the state saw a 37-percent lower gun death rate than the national average. In addition, the state has cut its gun death rate in half and Californians are 25 percent less likely to die in a mass shooting compared to people in other states. Meanwhile, other states such as Florida and Texas, with lax gun regulations, saw double-digit increases in the rate of gun deaths.
Among California’s gun safety laws, those include:
Temporary Gun Violence Restraining Order: California became one of the first states in the nation to enact a “red flag” law in 2016. California law allows family members, employers, co-workers, K-12 school employees and law enforcement to petition for a temporary Gun Violence Restraining Order to temporarily remove guns and ammunition from a person who is a danger to themselves and others. The temporary and nonpunitive Gun Violence Restraining Order prohibits a person from possessing firearms or ammunition while the order is in place to reduce the chance of self-harm or harm to others.
Universal Background Checks: California requires background checks on all gun purchases and transfers, including private transfers and sales at gun shows. It is one of 14 states and the District of Columbia that require universal background checks.
Mental Health Reporting: California has some of the nation’s strongest laws preventing those with serious mental illness from acquiring firearms. California law requires the immediate reporting of involuntary inpatient and outpatient treatment, as well as those under guardianship. Mental health treatment facilities and psychotherapists are also required to report under certain circumstances.
Age Restrictions: In California, you must be at least 21 years of age to purchase firearms. There are narrow exceptions to this restriction (e.g., an 18-year-old with a valid hunting license is able to purchase certain long guns).
Waiting Period: California has a waiting period of 10 days for all gun purchases. The state is one of nine states and the District of Columbia that have waiting periods and California’s waiting period is among the strongest.
Assault Weapons: California law strictly prohibits assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. This includes possessing, distributing, selling, and manufacturing assault weapons.