Mass shootings and other acts of gun violence continue to be an increasing problem across the United States, including among children and teens. California seeks to proactively prevent gun violence by offering a legal remedy for those who suspect someone close to them may be contemplating committing an act of gun violence against others or themselves. A gun violence restraining order (GVRO) stops an at-risk individual from owning, buying, or keeping guns and ammunition. After a judge issues a gun violence restraining order, the police enforce the order by removing all firearms from the subject’s home and preventing them from obtaining others through purchase or gift.
If you suspect that someone you’re close to might be capable of committing gun violence against themselves or others, and that person has shown clear signs of becoming a danger, you should know how to obtain a gun violence restraining order in California.
Who Can Request a Gun Violence Restraining Order?
The law place limits on who can file a gun violence restraining order against someone at risk of committing gun violence. This serves to prevent people from using the legal tool as a weapon or to settle a grudge. Only an individual with a close connection to the subject of the order—the respondent—can file a request for a gun violence restraining order in California. Those include:
- A spouse or domestic partner
- A boyfriend/girlfriend
- A parent
- An adult child
- A roommate or anyone who shared a household with the respondent at any time during the 6 months before filing
- A second-degree relative such as a grandparent, aunt, uncle, niece, or nephew
If a close family connection believes the individual is at an immediate risk of gun violence against themselves (suicide) or others, only a law enforcement officer can obtain an emergency GVRO. Even when the courts are closed, if a close connection to the subject of the order believes that danger is imminent, they can call law enforcement and request an emergency order.
Obtaining a GVRO in California
Deciding to request a gun violence restraining order can be a difficult decision to make, especially if it’s against a close family member. But preventing a tragedy should always be the top priority. Obtaining a restraining order against someone you suspect is on the edge of committing an act of gun violence requires the following actions:
- Ask for a restraining order through a petition available at the courthouse or online
- Ask for a lawyer or court clerk to review your petition
- Submit a copy of the petition to the superior court in the respondent’s jurisdiction
Depending on the urgency of the situation, the court could issue an immediate temporary GVRO. The respondent (the subject of the order) is served with the restraining order and the serving official will send the petitioner a Proof of Personal Service form to notify the petitioner that they’ve served the respondent.
The temporary order includes the respondent’s hearing date. The respondent may present their own testimony and evidence against the order at the hearing. During the hearing, a judge reviews the evidence and testimony and then decides whether or not to issue a permanent gun violence restraining order to prevent the respondent from purchasing or owning firearms or ammunition for 5 years.
A judge diligently weighs the evidence and testimony, carefully considering if there is a less restrictive way to prevent the possible danger before ordering a gun violence restraining order. If the judge issues the restraining order, law enforcement will compel the respondent to turn over their firearms or face arrest. Often the order includes a search warrant so officers can confiscate any guns and ammunition possessed by the respondent.