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    Making Schools and Workplaces Safer from Gun Violence

    By Assemblymember Phil Ting–

    Since Stay-At-Home orders were issued this spring, we have rarely heard about mass shootings at schools and workplaces. Prior to COVID-19, however, the number of incidents was trending up for years, inspiring me to make our classrooms and jobs safer by strengthening our state’s red flag gun law.

    That effort is now becoming reality. My legislation, AB 61, is taking effect on September 1, empowering more Californians with an effective tool that helps to prevent tragedies. School staff, employers, and co-workers will be able to use an existing court process to file what’s called a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO).

    With a judge’s approval of that petition, someone’s firearms would be temporarily taken away if they pose a threat to themselves or others. The initial seizure is for 21 days, and the order can be extended for up to one year. Currently, only law enforcement and immediate family have access to this legal procedure.

    It makes sense to include our campus and work sites in this expansion, because those are the places where we spend the most time when we’re not at home. The people we see every day are likely to notice early warning signs, and red flag laws give them a way to intervene. To avert misuse, school employees must work with their administrative office, and co-workers are required to go through their human resources department, in order to file for a GVRO.

    Since California’s original law began in 2016, courts have approved more than 1,700 GVROs—the bulk of them issued last year. San Francisco has also become more active in pursuing them in the last year, following education and outreach efforts undertaken by my office.

    A recent high-profile example close to home at a South Bay dealership illustrates the potential of GVROs and how one may have averted a shooting. In this case, a mechanic who was about to lose his job brought guns to work, threatening to kill his supervisor. Sunnyvale police did not have adequate evidence to charge the now-fired employee, but law enforcement did secure a GVRO. They not only took away those firearms brought to the workplace, but also rifles, high-capacity magazines, and more. Imagine what could have happened with no red flag law in place.

    Individuals like this man at the dealership were examined by UC Davis researchers, as they looked into the effectiveness of California’s GVRO law. They found that nobody in their sample pool was involved in subsequent gun-related violence after their weapons were removed. While the 2019 study cited how difficult it is to say how many incidents were prevented, it is reasonable to conclude our state’s GVRO law plays a role in reducing the chance of shootings.

    Reducing the chance of shootings. Those words resonate with me. If there’s a possibility to save lives, no matter how small, we should take advantage of it. Nineteen states, plus the District of Columbia, agree and have implemented similar GVRO or red flag laws. They, too, have had enough.

    Expanding California’s GVRO law is necessary because, at some point, we are going to be able to resume our pre-pandemic lives, attending classes and working in an office. We need the people who see us the most, outside family—school officials, employers, and co-workers—to have opportunities to step in before tragedy strikes. For more information on how GVROs work or how to obtain one, please visit: https://speakforsafety.org/

    Phil Ting represents the 19th Assembly District, which includes the Westside of San Francisco along with the communities of Broadmoor, Colma, and Daly City.

    Published on August 27, 2020