The right to keep and bear arms is protected in the United States Constitution under the Second Amendment. One does not have to be a legal scholar to understand that the 2nd Amendment is hot button topic. While there are many different facets to the debate about firearms, from the types of guns that people can own to criminal background checks; there has been a growing movement to ensure public safety through making it more difficult for some individuals to acquire firearms. Specifically, those with a history of mental instability or illness.
Each year, We can all expect that there will be one or several horrific shootings; the big news last year was the Las Vegas Massacre involving the death of 58 innocents, this year the focus is on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School when a former student killed seventeen. It is often the case that whenever gun violence occurs en masse, the conversation cannot help but pull towards who should be able to own firearms; mainly, the question of how to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns arises.
Answering the above query or deciding how to prevent people with a history of rash and unstable behavior from acquiring deadly weapons usually devolves into a liberal vs. conservative debate. Those in favor of the 2nd Amendment as is, and those who would like to alter in the service of public interest. What the right move is, really depends on who you ask; however, most can probably agree that something needs to happen to ensure public safety and protect peoples’ constitutional rights.
In California, it isn’t easy to take guns from people even if they appear to be unhinging from reality. For mental health facilities to involuntarily hold individuals, a psychiatrist must determine that the individual is, in fact, mentally ill. And, posting threatening statements on one’s social media is not a criterion for a mental disorder. While diagnosing psychological disorders that could lead to harming oneself or others is not simple, there is an avenue for friends and family members can go down to remove firearms from unstable people.
Mental Instability and Guns
In 2014, 22-year old Elliott Rodger killed six people in Isla Vista near UC Santa Barbara, deaths which could have been avoided. The shooter’s mother spoke up before the mass killing about concerning things she was witnessing on her son’s online postings, The San Francisco Chronicle reports. She alerted authorities about the threat her son posed, and Sheriff’s officials visited him at his apartment but did not discover anything that warranted intervention.
As a result of the Isla Vista mass shooting, California Assembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara wrote AB-1014: Gun violence restraining orders. The bill allows friends, family members, and law enforcement officials to ask a judge to grant a firearm restraining order for up to a year in a process similar to a domestic violence restraining order. When a welfare checkup isn’t sufficient to protect the lives of others, a gun restraining order buys time.
Oregon, Washington, Indiana, and Connecticut have laws that allow for gun restraining orders, according to the article. In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting the state of Florida passed similar legislation; which makes sense considering that acquaintances of the young shooter raised concerns before the massacre.
Californians are turning to AB-1014, albeit slowly. In 2016, 189 petitions for a gun violence restraining orders were granted, it is not clear how many requests were denied.
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