Calif. Authorities To Utilize New Law Aimed At Preventing Mass Shootings Advocates hope gun violence restraining orders will keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. Critics say the new law, that takes effect in January, is ripe for abuse.
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Calif. Authorities To Utilize New Law Aimed At Preventing Mass Shootings

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Calif. Authorities To Utilize New Law Aimed At Preventing Mass Shootings

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Calif. Authorities To Utilize New Law Aimed At Preventing Mass Shootings

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And we're tracking an effort in this country to prevent the next mass shooting. It's a much debated law that takes effect in the new year here in California. Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler reports on how it works.

BEN ADLER, BYLINE: Santa Barbara, Calif., May 2014 - a young man killed six people and injured 13 after his parents had warned law enforcement he could be dangerous.

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: All members vote who desire to vote.

ADLER: Within months, California lawmakers took this vote...

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Ayes 47, noes 25. The measure passes.

ADLER: ...And the bill was soon signed into law. Modeled on domestic violence restraining order laws, the measure allows family members or law enforcement to seek a temporary gun violence restraining order against someone they believe could be dangerous.

RUDY ESCALANTE: It establishes a process to obtain a legal court order to temporarily reduce those potential acts when we have the warning signs or indications that the person might be at risk for violence.

ADLER: Rudy Escalante is the police chief of Capitola, Calif., and is active in the state's Police Chiefs Association. Even though there's no evidence the San Bernardino shooters' family raised concerns about them, the law is now getting more attention.

ESCALANTE: If those circumstances existed in the San Bernardino case then it is possible, if the law was operative, that they could've reported that and been able to go through a civil process of getting a restraining order and had those guns removed.

ADLER: Though Escalante quickly added...

ESCALANTE: A lot of ifs there.

ADLER: President Obama has called on Americans to speak up if they believe people in their family or community could be dangerous. And Democratic State Assemblyman Phil Ting wants to expand California's law to include co-workers and perhaps other groups.

PHIL TING: You have a number of innocent victims who were co-workers of this individual who, hopefully, if they had the tools to protect themselves they would've been able to.

SAM PAREDES: We have a great concern about expanding that model because it opens it up to any sort of a frivolous attack on an individual.

ADLER: Sam Paredes, of Gun Owners of California, opposed the original law as unconstitutional. He's even more worried about expanding it.

PAREDES: There's going to have to be some very close scrutiny to see if it's being taken advantage of by people with a gripe or a concern or a grudge. It will always be suspect whenever used.

ADLER: Gun control advocacy groups say Connecticut and Indiana have similar laws though only law enforcement, and not family members, can seek gun violence restraining orders. Several other states including New York and Washington are considering their own legislation. For NPR News, I'm Ben Adler in Sacramento.

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