Kathryn Davis: We can prevent guns from doing harm
An opinion piece entitled, “Guns in the wrong hands” in The Union last July by Magdalene Jaeckel, stuck with me, even before Las Vegas.
I shared Ms. Jaeckel’s dismay at the homicide, in our community, of a caregiver at the hands of a demented elderly man with access to firearms.
The definitions, laws and concerns for Second Amendment rights inevitably come to the fore when we discuss guns and mental illness. But all of us want our loved ones and communities to be safe. The problem is not mental illness or dementia, those conditions are part of the human condition. The problem is when the guns are present that can lead to these tragedies.
We must begin to think in terms of focusing on the guns and removing them when people with an elevated risk of dangerous behavior have them in their possession.
In January of last year, Californians were provided a critical tool giving family members and law enforcement a way to protect loved ones — and the community — from individuals in crisis. The Gun Violence Restraining Order allows law enforcement and immediate family members to petition the court to obtain a temporary order to remove firearms when a person is at risk of injuring either him or herself or others. The order would temporarily prohibit the purchase or possession of firearms while the order is in effect.
Those on the front lines of family well-being and community safety — caregivers, friends, family members, police officers, doctors, mental health professionals — can recognize the risks of dangerous behavior, and take action.
Risk to self, especially in Nevada County with a significant elderly population, in the form of suicide with a firearm is a heartbreaking reality. Many of us have worried about a person who became despondent and depressed when faced with loss, illness, or loneliness. Access to a loaded firearm makes the opportunity for suicide immediate. A close family member or caregiver, friend or neighbor calling on a police officer to utilize the Gun Violence Restraining Order law to remove access to firearms for up to a year allows for needed medical and professional intervention.
Risk to others can, and all too often does, result in tragedy. Over and over we hear that a person who committed murder with a firearm was in an emotional or mental health crisis and likely to harm others, but until recently they had little recourse to intervene and have firearm access removed. Now there is a solution. California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law was modeled after a law in Connecticut, where it has been most used to prevent suicide by firearm.
The restraining orders in California have been filed in cases of threats of suicide, domestic disputes, dangerous behavior related to alcohol and drug addiction, threats to law enforcement, dangerous behavior related to delusions, and threats to family or community members. Interestingly, the law has been used recently in two counties to disarm suspected terrorists. This law empowers law enforcement since individuals on the Terrorist Watch List do not have a firearm prohibition under either federal or state law.
Family members can find out more about the Gun Violence Restraining Order process and download forms at http://www.courts.ca.gov/33961.htm or at the county court clerk’s office or the court’s self-help clinic. Any concerned person may contact law enforcement who can petition immediately for an Emergency Temporary Firearms Restraining Order. Additional information can be found at: http://www.courts.ca.gov/documents/gv100info.pdf,
The Gun Violence Restraining Order has the potential to save many lives by enabling the removal of firearms from a dangerous person before a tragedy occurs.
You can always give a gun back, you can’t get a life back.
Kathryn Davis lives in Grass Valley.
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