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Safe Storage CA — Protect Kids From Unintentional Shootings

Safe Storage CA — Protect Kids From Unintentional Shootings

Mission:

Make it easy for volunteers to contact their school districts and schools, asking for secure gun storage information to be sent to every family.

Why Now:

The number of homes with firearms has never been higher. Unintentional shootings of children are on the rise. Most of those shootings occur with firearms that were accessed by the victims or their acquaintances. Before the pandemic, 4.6 million American children lived in homes with unlocked loaded guns. Research shows that one in three city homes contains guns with nearly twice this rate in rural areas. Gun sales were higher than ever in 2020 and the first six months of 2021, with many first time gun owners. Secure gun storage saves lives.

17-year-old: “I can buy a ghost gun kit!” Gun rights groups: “So why the drama?”

17-year-old: “I can buy a ghost gun kit!” Gun rights groups: “So why the drama?”

He’s not old enough to vote, but he can buy a ghost gun kit.

He’s not old enough to buy tobacco, but he can buy a ghost gun kit.

He’s not old enough to buy liquor, but he can buy a ghost gun kit.

Do you see any potential problems with that?

“How easy it really is”

“I’ve heard it’s really easy to buy ghost gun kits online,” says a 17-year-old senior in high school, “and today I’m going to find out how easy it really is.”

He decides to buy the kit over the internet. Click the image to see the video he created about it:

17-year-old buys a ghost gun kit

No background check is necessary. Background checks are for traditional guns, and for completed parts of traditional guns. Ghost guns fall through a legal crack that gets around background checks for gun parts that require additional handiwork.

Once the parts have arrived, the 17-year-old can use common tools to modify and assemble the parts into a handgun. The handgun will fire 9mm rounds capable of inflicting serious bodily injury. Or death, depending on how the gun is aimed.

When complete, the handgun will not have a serial number. The 17-year-old can fire it a few times and give it to a friend to use, and there will be no way to trace it back to its original owner or seller.

Team ENOUGH and ghost guns

We’re lucky. The 17-year-old is a member of the San Diego chapter of Team ENOUGH, a youth-led organization representing students who are dedicated to gun violence prevention.

He is not buying a ghost gun kit so that he can commit suicide or a crime. He is buying it to demonstrate how perversely easy it is for just about anybody to get dangerously close to possessing a lethal weapon without a background check or a serial number.

Ghost guns are at the center of a “flourishing and unregulated online market” now. They are showing up in increasing numbers of crimes committed in places like Los Angeles; Chicago; Syracuse, New York; Columbia, South Carolina; and San Jose, California.

Mayors are troubled by them. Legislators are sponsoring bills about them. The President has taken initial actions to help stop their proliferation.

In other words, a number of people are trying, based on evidence like body counts and firearms recovered from crime scenes, to rein in the spread of ghost guns.

“So why the drama?”

Not everyone is concerned about easy access to ghost guns or thinks it is a problem. “Why the drama?” they ask.

Sometimes they are more concerned about the rights of law-abiding citizens, given that ghost gun kits are not against the law. “Go after the criminals a little harder,” they say.

But not all purchasers of ghost gun kits will use them in law-abiding ways. And not all 17-year-olds will think clearly about abiding by the law once they have assembled a ghost gun.

That’s why the drama.

John White is a volunteer with SD4GVP.

Safe Storage of Firearms at Home – How Schools Can Play a Role

Safe Storage of Firearms at Home – How Schools Can Play a Role

The school districts have gotten the message about safe storage.”

I wrote that in my post a few months ago, describing the letter that California’s Superintendent of Education Tony Thurmond sent to all district superintendents in the state. He asked them to inform families in their districts about parents’ responsibility to keep guns locked and ammunition stored separately.

That was a good first step.

However, we’ve just received bad news about what we hoped would be the next step: AB 452, a bill to require parental notification of California’s firearm safety laws through the schools, will NOT be set for hearing before the Education Committee this year.

Nevertheless, we’ll try again next year. It’s too important an opportunity to pass up.

Meanwhile, there’s Schools for Safe Storage

Ira Sharp of Never Again is a steadfast and determined advocate for safety. He has put together Schools for Safe Storage, a web resource for sending out information on the safe storage of firearms.

Suppose you have school-aged children in California, or maybe you simply believe, as we do, that school districts have a central role to play in gun violence prevention (GVP). You can go to Schools for Safe Storage, enter your county, enter your school district, select a template, then select a method (email, postal, phone).

The site makes it easy for you to tell your superintendent that you want schools in your district to inform parents that they are responsible for gun safety at home.

While we continue to work for the passage of AB452 and similar bills, Schools for Safe Storage is a strong, grass-roots way to deliver your message.

The shortest path to safe storage is through the schools

Why is this important? Why now?

The recent uptick in headline-grabbing shootings has many American shaking their heads, yet again. But those events disappear quickly from your news feed and from the front page.

What never goes away, though, is the epidemic of daily gun violence, mostly affecting communities, families and homes you don’t see on the news.

With a few simple actions, you can tell your local school district it’s important to send out information to families about their responsibility to safely store firearms.

Here in Southern California, several school districts have already taken this action or have committed to doing so in the future, including San Diego Unified School District, Poway Unified, Solana Beach and La Mesa-Spring Valley. We thank the volunteers who have made this happen!

Contact your school district superintendent. Now!

Are you ready to start a campaign like this in your school district? Visit Schools for Safe Storage for tools you can use to get started in any district in California. Let us know if you contact your school district or if you have any questions about mounting a campaign like this. You can reach us at safestorageca@gmail.com.

This keeps guns safely stored at home, out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, and out of the schools.

What’s not to like about that?

Lori Van Orden is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

photo credit: unmatched value

Gun Violence Prevention Measures — From the White House, Yet!

Gun Violence Prevention Measures — From the White House, Yet!

Like tens of millions of Americans, we at San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention (SD4GVP) are heartened by the six federal-level actions that the Biden-Harris Administration has announced. Too much time has gone by since our cause had a champion in the White House, and we welcome the announcement.

6 initial actions

We summarize the administration’s six initial actions, “fully within the Administration’s authority and the Second Amendment,” as follows (we’ve added the links):

  1. a proposed rule to help stop the proliferation of ghost guns;
  2. a proposed rule to make clear when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace effectively turns a pistol into a short-barreled rifle;
  3. investments in evidence-based community violence interventions;
  4. a directive to the Justice Department to publish model “red flag” legislation for states;
  5. a directive to the Justice Department to issue an annual report on firearms trafficking; and
  6. the nomination of David Chipman to serve as Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF).

It’s a big-enough deal to see a presidential administration go to bat for any one of these issues. Seeing an administration tackle six of them feels like a once-in-a-lifetime milestone.

In fact, a lot of us have gone a lifetime without seeing action on them. That’s why this is such good news.

Going in several of SD4GVP’s new directions

For us at SD4GVP, the most important thing about these six actions is that several of them reflect the same initiatives we’ve been working on in recent months.

1. Ghost guns

We’ve blogged about ghost guns recently. They bear no serial number and they do not require a background check. That’s why our colleague Steve Lindley observes, “Everything we’ve been working on in California for the last 30 years in gun violence prevention is being undermined by ghost guns.”

We’ve also been supporting and promoting AB 311, introduced by Assembly Member Chris Ward, to ban the sales of ghost gun kits and parts at gun shows in California. And we’ve promoted Team ENOUGH, including in its efforts to raise awareness about how easy it is for a 17-year-old high-school senior to buy a ghost gun.

Ghost guns give us nightmares. We’re displeased that they’ve gained so much momentum so quickly, but we’re on it.

3. Evidence-based community violence interventions

Our coalition includes groups like Shaphat Outreach, Community Wraparound and Tariq Khamisa Foundation. These groups work in the communities most affected by the daily gun violence that engulfs people and families.

Over the last couple of years, we in SD4GVP have connected with the leaders in those communities. They have a ground-up perspective on where gun violence comes from and how to address it. They know that a lot of it starts with economic injustice, and they also know that not very much of it stops with incarceration.

The good news is that the Biden-Harris Administration has similarly connected with leaders at the community level. As part of this initial action, it issued an additional fact sheet outlining planned investments in community violence intervention to combat the gun violence epidemic. The list is long and it touches the American Jobs Plan, Medicaid funding and more than two dozen existing grant programs across five government agencies.

We tried jailing our way out of gun violence. How’d that work out for us? There is much more promise in this approach.

4. Red-flag laws

SD4GVP has supported the San Diego City Attorney’s office on gun violence restraining orders (GVRO), the California equivalent of red-flag laws. City Attorney Mara Elliott reports that, to date, her office has used GVROs to intervene in more than 500 crisis situations when individuals posed a threat of harm to themselves or others. That means a lot of people got a lot of extra time to sort problems out before they used a firearm to solve them.

As of April 2020, 19 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of red-flag law. The specifics of the laws, and the degree to which they are utilized, vary from state to state, which is understandable. The Biden-Harris Administration is calling for the Justice Department to publish red-flag legislation that states can refer to or use as a model.

The goal is to make it easier for states that want to adopt red flag laws to do so. The hope is that someday Congress will pass a federal red-flag law, and that, until then, they’ll pass legislation that gives states an incentive to pass their own red-flag laws.

At SD4GVP, we’ve long put our support and effort behind California’s laws on GVROs because we believe that it makes common sense to apply them locally. We’re relieved that the White House believes that too.

Onward

We anticipate that these six initial actions from the executive branch will encounter headwinds from the judiciary, the gun lobby and its stewards in the legislative branch. Still, they are the first signs of progress in a long time and we’re encouraged.

We look forward to fighting for them with you.

John White is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

How to Obtain a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO)

How to Obtain a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO)

First things first

Afraid someone you know or love will harm themselves or others with a gun? In California, a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) can protect you and the ones you love.

If you know of anyone who poses an immediate danger of gun injury to themselves or to others, call 911. A trained officer will investigate immediately and, if warranted, can petition a judge to obtain an emergency GVRO at any time of the day or night. The emergency GVRO allows the officer to take away any firearms or ammunition the person possesses or has access to and prohibits them from acquiring any more until there is a court hearing. Emergency GVROs have prevented many suicides and saved the lives of many people threatened by boyfriends, ex-spouses, co-workers, classmates and others.

In almost every instance of a mass shooting, the shooter told someone of their intentions. California’s GVRO law is based on a well-established principle: You can always give back a gun, but you cannot give back a life.

“I wish we could have gotten the guns out of their control before somebody got hurt.”

People around this country, this state and even this city find themselves saying that all the time.

They say it because of “family fire,” the accidental shootings with a misused or improperly stored gun in the home that injure or kill 8 children and teens a day.

They say it because of domestic violence, as 52 women are shot and killed by an intimate partner in an average month.

They say it because of suicide incidents, 51 percent of which are by firearm.

They say it because they hear a co-worker or fellow student make a threat.

In 17 states and the District of Columbia, citizens have said “ENOUGH!” to wishing they had had the guns removed before somebody got hurt. They have passed Extreme Risk Protection Order (ERPO) laws, or “red flag” laws, which we call Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) laws in California.

A GVRO is a civil court order that temporarily prevents someone from possessing, accessing or purchasing firearms and ammunition when the person is at risk of attempting suicide or harming others. Because a GVRO is a civil procedure, the person from whom the firearms are temporarily removed will not have a criminal record — unless they violate the judge’s order.

Often, family members do not know how to go about removing the guns or are afraid to do so, particularly if the person has dementia or PTSD, or is experiencing depression or a temporary mental health crisis. When family or co-workers inform the police of their fear of an immediate threat, a GVRO allows the San Diego Police Department to remove firearms temporarily, when warranted. A GVRO provides an opportunity to get care for the person at risk (known as the “respondent”) and takes away the fear that possession of the gun could lead to serious injury or death.

Who can request a gun violence restraining order?

Law enforcement, family and household members can request a GVRO in San Diego. That includes spouses, parents, grandparents, children, stepparents, stepchildren, domestic partners, siblings, and roommates and persons who have regularly resided in the last six months on the same property as the respondent.

I am a family or household member. How do I request a GVRO?

  1. If you are afraid and you believe that somebody in your family or household poses an immediate danger of injury from firearms to themselves, to you or to others, call 911. A police officer can obtain an Emergency GVRO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The GVRO empowers the officer to remove the guns and ammunition.
  2. If you live in the city of San Diego and there is no immediate danger of injury, call the SDPD at 619-531-2000. A police officer can obtain a Temporary GVRO at any time of the day or night.
  3. Go to a local police station and ask for assistance in obtaining a GVRO.

Do I have to go through the police to get a GVRO? Are there other ways?

There are other ways to request a GVRO, such as with the help of an attorney. In San Diego, however, there are advantages to working with law enforcement officers:

  1. They are experts in handling dangerous situations and people with firearms; private citizens are not. Once a petition for a Temporary GVRO is granted, it must be served on the respondent. When police officers serve the order, they immediately seize all firearms and ammunition. But when the order is served by a private citizen, the respondent has 24 hours to comply, either by taking his guns and ammunition to the police or by storing them with a gun dealer and providing proof to the court. A lot can happen in those 24 hours, including an attack on the threatened party or the stashing of guns with friends for later use.
  2. Evidence that will hold up in court is very important. Police officers know how to gather evidence that the respondent is a threat to him-/herself or others. Most private citizens do not have that expertise.
  3. Working through the San Diego Police Department is free; hiring a private attorney is not.

After the respondent is served and the firearms are removed, what happens?

In San Diego, the initial GVRO lasts 21 days, during which time a hearing occurs. If the respondent wishes to contest the order, he or she must attend. At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence about whether the possession of guns by the respondent poses a danger to him-/herself or others, and decide whether to continue or cancel the temporary order. If the judge decides to continue the temporary order, the GVRO will last up to one year.

Are GVROs “No Contact” orders?

No, GVROs do not prevent the respondent from having contact with you, your children, your family members or others who live with you. And they can’t force the respondent to move out of your home. For more information about other types of restraining orders, including those for domestic violence, civil harassment, elder or dependent adult abuse and workplace violence, visit: www.courts.ca.gov/1260.htm.

Where can I get more information on obtaining a GVRO?

Visit Speak for Safety. You’ll find an entire website for the kinds of people who ask questions about having guns removed before somebody gets hurt or killed:

  • Family and household
  • Health care providers
  • Veterans
  • Eldercare providers
  • Fiduciaries
  • Public health
  • Attorneys
  • Law enforcement

GVRO laws are relatively recent in California, and not everyone knows how they work. If you need help from somebody unfamiliar with GVROs, direct them to Speak for Safety for more information.

Do GVROs really work?

Yes. In 2019 alone, the San Diego City Attorney’s Office, with significant support from the San Diego Police Department, obtained GVROs against 200 individuals who posed a threat to themselves or others.

Obtaining a GVRO requires effort and, in some cases, courage.

But it can mean the difference between “I wish we could have gotten the guns out of their control before somebody got hurt” and “I’m so glad we got the guns out of their control before somebody got hurt.”

John White is a volunteer with San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.

Photo credit: Lisa Roe