By Leah Timmerman
SAN JOSE, CA –After California’s largest mass shooting this year, State Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) called for increasing the effectiveness of California’s “Red Flag” laws to curb gun violence and mass shootings.
Last Wednesday, a gunman opened fire at a San Jose light rail yard, killing nine Valley Transportation Workers, and later died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The gunman set his house on fire before he drove to the light rail yard that Wednesday morning and began shooting at workers. Reports also said that the shooting was related to a workplace issue and did not involve riders to the Santa Clara County light rail system.
In reaction to the shooting, Sen. Cortese, who represents the area, said “like many in our community, this tragedy has served to strengthen my resolve in taking meaningful steps to address senseless gun violence and put an end to the mass shootings that plague our state and our entire country.”
He said he wants to implement policies includes expanding and improving California’s “Red Flag” laws.
First put into law in 2014, these are state statutes that authorize the police or a close family member to seek a restraining order to remove firearms from the possession of an individual who has been deemed to constitute a threat to themselves or others.
Starting in 2020, Assembly Bill 61 expanded the California “red flag” law to include employers, coworkers and teachers as those eligible to seek a gun violence restraining order against an individual.
Advocates of “red flag” laws say these restraining orders address current gaps in federal law.
These laws only bar people from having guns if they have been convicted of certain crimes, if they are determined to have a mental illness, have been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital, or if they’re subject to a final domestic violence restraining order.
People who don’t meet these criteria, according to federal law, are still able to buy and keep guns, even if they display warning signs of impending violence or suicide.
According to Cortese’s office, these gun violence restraining orders have confiscated guns from over 3,000 people deemed as threats in the last three years across the state.
To show his resolve in taking on gun violence and mass shootings Sen. Cortese stated, “I intend to bring the best minds in law enforcement and mental health together to draft legislation to address this challenge.”
One of these minds is Santa Clara District Attorney Jeff Rosen, who, the senator has stated, expressed his commitment to partner on these efforts to strengthen the state’s red flag laws—such that they aren’t evaded and are invoked when necessary to prevent future tragedies.
In an official letter to DA Rosen after the shooting, Cortese asked, “[W]e cannot help but wonder if, in this instance, were our red flag laws invoked, could they have potentially saved members of our community? Furthermore, are there barriers that can be addressed to strengthen these laws so that they are able to prevent even more tragic deaths?”
The state lawmaker said he hopes that he and DA Rosen can work together to bring a bill to the California Legislature to increase the effectiveness of the red flag laws.
So, he said, “no family should experience the trauma and pain that families of those who lost loved ones are currently bearing, and no family should live in fear while living and working in Santa Clara County.”
Leah Timmerman is a 4th year Political Science and American Studies major at UC Davis. She is originally from Los Angeles, California.
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