Two Gun Bills Signed in California

by | October 1, 2014

By Melody Gutierrez

Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills Tuesday written in response to gun tragedies that shook up Northern California: the Isla Vista shooting rampage by a UC Santa Barbara student and the Sonoma County sheriff's deputy shooting of a boy with a toy gun.

One new law will allow family and friends of a person who is believed to pose a threat or danger to petition a court to remove the person's guns. The other law will require toy guns sold in the state to have bright-colored markings so that they are not mistaken for real firearms.

Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said SB199 would help law enforcement officers distinguish between replica toy guns and real weapons in hopes of avoiding the kind of confusion that led to the death of 13-year-old Andy Lopez. A sheriff's deputy shot the eighth grader last year near his home outside Santa Rosa after mistaking his replica AK-47 for a real one.

Under AB1014, family members can petition a judge to request that firearms be removed from a loved one who they believe poses a serious threat. Under current law, officers can confiscate guns from people who are felons, have a record of mental instability or who have domestic violence restraining orders against them.

Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, introduced AB1014 after the deadly rampage in May at Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara.

"Governor Brown helped to honor the life of my son, Christopher, and so many others killed by senseless gun violence by signing AB1014 into law," Richard Martinez, father of Isla Vista shooting victim Christopher Michaels-Martinez, said in a statement.

Emeryville Police Chief Ken James said there has long been frustrating gaps in the law.

"... We can't take action until after gun violence has devastated our families and communities, when it's too late," James in a statement. "AB 1014 fills that gap, giving law enforcement and family members a way to prevent gun violence before it happens."

The law, known as a gun violence restraining order, would be similar to obtaining a domestic violence restraining order.

Gun rights advocates opposed the bill, saying AB1014 has low standards for proving a person is a threat before confiscating their guns.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, a Tea Party favorite from Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), said last month that he worried the bill would give virtual strangers the ability to take away a person's Second Amendment rights.

"How do we prevent one of these mass shootings?" Donnelly asked prior to the Legislature passing AB1014. "I'm afraid we can not do it with laws. We can not legislate that darkness, that evil that lurks in the hearts of men. Only God can fix that."

Skinner said it's often family and friends who spot the warning signs of someone in crisis, such as in the Isla Vista shooting. The mother of the killer, 22-year-old Elliott Rodger, attempted to alert authorities to her son's threats in the weeks leading up to the rampage.

Skinner said her bill is an attempt to make it easier for families and friends to prevent tragedies.

"This won't prevent all such incidents, but it might prevent some," Skinner said last month. "Isn't it the responsible thing for us to try to prevent those incidents?"

(c)2014 the San Francisco Chronicle