AB 1014 – Addressing One Aspect of Public Safety

gun-controlBy Tia Will

Recently a number of events have focused our attention on the issue of public safety.

These have involved the safety of individual private citizens and the safety of our police. Today, I would like to address one measure currently being considered as an attempt to lessen the chances of life threatening actions on the part of the mentally ill.

The 2014 mass murder and suicide committed in Isla Vista (near UCSB) is one example of a mentally ill individual whose illness substantially contributed to his use of a number of modalities, including firearms to kill others, and ultimately himself.

The shooter’s parents had expressed to local police their concerns about their son’s escalating illness, but the police were very limited in their ability to respond and thus were unable to find the firearms used in two of the deaths, multiple injuries and the shooter’s own suicide.

This tragedy has led to some members of our community taking another look at the interface between mental illness and acts of homicide and suicide.

One such attempt at risk reduction is AB 1014.

What this bill provides is a mechanism for family members or health care providers to alert police who would then be empowered to investigate and if appropriate temporarily confiscate the firearms of an individual found to be at substantial risk to himself and/or others.

While this bill will obviously not bring about an end to mental illness driven violent acts, it would reduce the risk of a single shooter incident or a conspiracy such as Columbine, with the potential for reduction of risk to the police as well as to the entire community.

I have heard many comments and read many posts about addressing mental illness as one key step in preventing these mass killings. I am in complete agreement with this point. I feel that one step in moving forward proactively will be to provide a system in which the individuals who know the mentally ill individual best will feel confident that if they notify authorities, definitive action will be taken for the protection, not only of those close to the individual and the individual himself, but for the protection of the entire community.

 I do not see this bill as a panacea. It is no more comprehensive than are the issuance of restraining orders against an individual judged at risk for committing acts of domestic violence.

However, I do see it as part of a comprehensive program to help the mentally ill as individuals, while protecting the society as a whole from their illness-driven violent acts. This bill is currently on our governor’s desk awaiting signature.

I would encourage anyone seeing a connection between mental illness and gun possession to consider writing to Governor Brown encouraging his signature.

About The Author

Tia is a graduate of UCDMC and long time resident of Davis who raised her two now adult children here. She is a local obstetrician gynecologist with special interests in preventive medicine and public health and safety. All articles and posts written by Tia are reflective only of her own opinions and are in no way a reflection of the opinions of her partners or her employer.

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14 Comments

  1. Clem Kadiddlehopper

    What this type of legislation misses completely is that, apparently quite often in these cases, the family (often a single Mom) knows the individual is really very abnormal, can’t handle him, and wants to get him committed to a mental institution, but that becomes nearly impossible because a) the law protects mentally ill persons (before this bill) to a fault; and b) we don’t have enough facilities to house and treat such persons.

    So, the real solution is to make it possible for the individual with mental issues to be evaluated by a real psychiatrist, and if deemed truly dangerous, treat the person, probably in an institutional setting, and expand such institutions.

    Seizing firearms simply on the word of whoever is ultimately empowered by this bill won’t work; it’ll deprive some people of their arms who should not be so deprived, and it’ll miss some dangerous crazies completely.

  2. Tia Will

    “Seizing firearms simply on the word of whoever is ultimately empowered by this bill won’t work; it’ll deprive some people of their arms who should not be so deprived, and it’ll miss some dangerous crazies completely.”

    As I stated I do not see this bill as a panacea. Just as I do not see restraining orders as a panacea for domestic violence. However, the bill provides for temporary, not permanent confiscation of weapons. In some cases, such as the Santa Barbara shooter, this may be enough to prevent loss of life since he was able to carry out his plan the next day. While confiscation of his firearms would not have prevented the stabbing deaths, it may well have prevented the fire arms related deaths and injuries. So whether or not you feel the bill “won’t work” depends on whether you will settle only for cure or whether you are interested in risk reduction as well. I am very much in favor of risk reduction. If I prescribe an antiviral to a person with herpes, I know they will not be “cured” but their symptoms may be reduced as will their chance of passing it on to others with whom they are in contact. Risk reduction is often valuable even if it falls short of “cure”.

  3. Offering Balance

    I think in theory this may be a good law, but, how could this have prevented Columbine?

    “What this bill provides is a mechanism for family members or health care providers to alert police who would then be empowered to investigate and if appropriate temporarily confiscate the firearms of an individual found to be at substantial risk to himself and/or others.”

    California law already allows for search warrants to obtain firearms from individuals what have voluntarily or involuntarily been committed for a mental health evaluation (72 hour hold) or are in a mental health treatment facility.

    Other than allowing someone to petition the court for firearm restraining order this law doesn’t appear to change anything.

  4. Tia Will

    “how could this have prevented Columbine?”

    It would have depended on the awareness of the family, schoolmates or health providers of the shooters. If someone was aware of the violent ideation of either of the boys, it might have been enough to spark an investigation. I suspect that it is more likely to be useful in the case of a single shooter, but would not eliminate the possibility of its interruption of conspiracy.

    “Other than allowing someone to petition the court for firearm restraining order this law doesn’t appear to change anything.”

    It also expands the ability of the police to investigate further such as a residential search instead of just taking the individual’s word that they are “all right”. In the Santa Barbara case, had the police been allowed entry into the shooter’s apartment, they would have found the cash of weapons thus corroborating the parents concerns and empowering them to confiscate the firearms. This would include individuals who have not been committed for a mental health evaluation. Thus it expands the current provisions of allowable police and judicial action.

  5. Offering Balance

    So this would not have prevented Columbine.

    As far as residential searches, I read through the bill and did not see where residential searches are allowed against the consent of the home owner. Maybe I am misreading the bill.

    Are you saying that under this bill the police can enter a home against the consent of the home owner to look for firearms and ammunition?

  6. Clem Kadiddlehopper

    If someone is mentally unstable or threatening others they need to be taken into custody. Simply taking away their guns does not make it safer for the public. A person who threatens and intends to harm others, even if their legal guns are seized, can always get weapons on the black market etc.

    where will it end? Do you take all their knives, hammers, baseball bats, frying pans, pressure cookers, cars, chemistry sets etc ? Then we will all be safe…

    If someone is deemed a threat to themselves or others to the point that you need a gun restraining order that person needs to be in police custody or in some type of involuntary commitment.

    Once again California creates the illusion that guns are the problem and not people. Take away the guns and we can all hold hands and kombaya we will all get along and the violent insane are just different and doing their own thing baby…

  7. Davis Progressive

    guns account for the vast majority of homicides, so why are people blind to the problem of making it easy for crazy people to obtain things that facilitate murder, sometimes mass murder?

  8. Clem Kadiddlehopper

    This law will be abused by Family Law attorneys as a matter of procedure feeding into a divorce filing.

    Restraining orders are often used as bargaining chips and evidence (even if the accusation is false, they are often granted “just in case”) during the divorce process.

  9. DavisBurns

    I signed the petition at farmers market yesterday. Just as a person who threatens to harm himself or others can be hospitalized for 72 hours, a person who may use firearms to harm himself and others can have his firearms removed for 21days. This bill gives concerned friends and family one small action they can take and there is precious little they can do otherwise. The law overprotects the individual stewing in his juices Untill he explodes. How is it different from a 5150? The person isn’t held, the weapons are just removed.

    Can it be misused? Sure, all power over another person can be misused. So do we repeal all laws because they can be misused? Nope, we do our best to provide checks and balances. Right now we are far out of balance with the right to have a weapon completely unbalanced by the right not to be harmed by someone else’s right to have a weapon. Let’s be “fair and balanced”. For a change.

  10. Tia Will

    Sorry for poor timing. I try to commit to addressing questions and posts on my articles. I am currently out of town and will get back with responses later this evening.

  11. Tia Will

    “The bill would require a court, upon issuance of a gun violence restraining order, to order the restrained person to surrender to the local law enforcement agency all firearms and ammunition in his or her custody or control, or which he or she possesses or owns. The bill would require the local law enforcement agency to retain custody of the firearm or firearms and ammunition for the duration of a gun violence restraining order.”

    To my reading, this portion of the bill stating that the person must surrender his weapons would indicate that the police have the right to confiscate such weapons just as they do in the case of domestic violence cases in which the individual has been threatening a partner with a weapon. I do not know the extent of the search allowed, or if they would have to seek additional court permission to effect a search but my understanding is that the weapons can be confiscated if found.

    As to whether or not a law such as this could have prevented a mass shooting by conspiracy such as Columbine is an open question. While it is true that no one stated or was willing to state that they had any suspicious about the shooters, I think that there plans would likely to have been discoverable as would have been their arsenal since apparently they had been journaling their intent with detailed plans for about one year in advance. Had someone, a family member, peer, or health care professional had suspicious, this law would enable them to make a report and would enable the police to act of that information.

    From my experience with patient’s who eventually tell me that they are or have been in an abusive situation, it frequently takes many visits and a great deal of trust before they will tell me. To me, to make it safe, and natural to report suspicions of dangerous behaviors or thought processes to others may be a very small step in preventing these tragedies from occurring.

    I also agree that individuals at this level of danger should be confined, however, this does not mean that they should continue having access to their arsenals until this is achieved. I believe that this is in an issue that needs to be addressed from both sides. Both adequate treatment and restriction of opportunity are needed to better protect our society.

  12. Offering Balance

    There are a lot ofl things this bill may or may not do that may or may not assist in something that may or may not happen.

    “It also expands the ability of the police to investigate further such as a residential search instead of just taking the individual’s word that they are “all right”.”

    To me this sure sounds like your belief is that police will not need a warrant to search someones house. I have a HUGE problem with that if that is what the law allows. I would also imagine that other Vanguard writers would have a field day with a law like that.

    Tia, you are pushing this law yet do not know what it does. I’m a little skeptical after that last law that had to pass before we could find out what is in it.

  13. theotherside

    As a 2nd Amendment and gun rights guy…….I like this bill. People with severe mental illness should be no where near firearms. And this bill actually changes nothing. All it does is mandate what police can already do. Which is seize firearms from people who are a danger. I’ve studied the Isla Vista case, and the police dropped the ball there. They did not act as they should have.

    Here’s the problem. If a person is taken on a 5150 hold by the police or other qualified person. Their firearms cannot be seized unless they are held for the entire 72 hours or more. I have seen far too often that Yolo mental health does not hold those that need it. Thus making their firearms unobtainable. Of course there are those that do not fit the criteria, but a lot slip through YMH’s fingers.

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