New Study Suggests California’s ‘Red Flag’ Law Prevents Mass Shootings

Guns and bullets lying on a table

A new study released today by researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine suggests that California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law (GVRO), also known as a “red flag” law, has prevented mass shootings since it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2016.

California’s law, AB 1014, the first of its kind in the nation, was authored by then-Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley. AB 1014 allows either a law enforcement officer or a family member to seek a court injunction to remove firearms from a person who poses a significant danger to himself or others.

“The UC Davis study shows the importance of having a tool to get guns out of the hands of dangerous people before it’s too late,” Sen. Skinner said. “It’s imperative that here and across the country we do whatever we can to prevent more mass killings.”

The UC Davis study, “Extreme Risk Protection Orders Intended to Prevent Mass Shootings,” published today in the Annals of Internal Medicine, examined 159 cases from 2016 to 2018 in which California courts ordered residents who posed a significant danger to themselves or others to surrender their firearms. Of those cases, the researchers identified 21 as instances involving people who posed credible threat of committing mass violence.

The researchers then followed the individuals in the 21 cases and found that, after they surrendered their firearms to authorities, they did not engage in violence. The researchers stressed that while the study did not definitively prove that GVROs (also known as extreme risk protection orders) prevented violence, it did suggest that such orders “have a role to play in efforts to prevent mass shootings.”

AB 1014 was signed into law five years ago by then-Gov. Jerry Brown, but did not go into effect until 2016. From 2016 to 2018, California courts issued 414 GVROs. Under AB 1014, a firearm can be taken away from someone for up to a year, although the order can be extended if there is clear and convincing evidence that the person still poses a significant danger.

When California began adopting gun control laws in the early 1990s, the state ranked third in gun homicides and 16th in gun deaths. By 2016, California dropped to 25th in gun homicides per capita and had the 8th lowest rate of gun-related deaths nationwide.

“California’s gun violence prevention actions work, and today’s UC Davis study provides yet more evidence that our tool that gets guns out of the hands of people making threats of violence is making California safer,” Skinner added.

Sen. Nancy Skinner (@NancySkinnerCA) represents the 9th Senate District and is the Senate Majority Whip. She is also chair of the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Public Safety Budget Committee.

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