Law Center Honors Nancy Skinner

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From left: Law Center board member and cofounder James Fousekis, former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner,
legal director Julie Leftwich, and board president Steve Smith. Photo courtesy of the Berkeley Times.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence was thrilled to honor retired California Assemblymember Nancy Skinner last Thursday evening. Friends and supporters gathered at the East Bay home of Law Center board member and co-founder James Fousekis, where Law Center legal director Julie Leftwich presented Skinner with an award for her years of work fighting for smart gun laws in the California state legislature.

Because of leaders like Skinner, and the efforts of the Law Center, California has some of the best gun laws in the country, earning at A- on our annual Gun Law State Scorecard. It also boasts one of the lowest gun death rates in the country, demonstrating the strong correlation between smart gun laws and reduced gun violence.

In 2014, Skinner introduced California’s landmark Gun Violence Restraining Order bill, which became law last October. The first of its kind, the GVRO law empowers families to petition the court to temporarily prohibit loved ones who pose a threat to themselves or others from possessing guns. The bill was introduced in response to last summer’s tragic shooting in Isla Vista—the shooter’s parents had warned law enforcement that their son was dangerous, but police had no legal means to prevent the shooter from purchasing the guns that would ultimately kill six and wound 13. Skinner’s GVRO law will help prevent future shootings like this from occurring, and is already being looked at as a model for states around the country.

Learn more about California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order law.

California’s New Gun Violence Restraining Order Law

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On September 30, Governor Jerry Brown signed California AB 1014, a new law that allows family members and law enforcement officers to seek a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), also known as a Firearms Restraining Order, against people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has written a comprehensive memo detailing the specifics of this important new legislation. We believe the GVRO law will help lead the way to more states enacting similar smart gun laws to empower families and keep communities safe.

As learned from the tragic Isla Vista shooting, shooters may exhibit certain warning signs of impending violence, but those behaviors may not be severe enough to allow authorities to take preventive action. Those in the best position to see and recognize these warning signs—immediate family members—are left without legal means to intervene. The GVRO law addresses this glaring problem by allowing concerned family members, as well as law enforcement officers, to obtain a Gun Violence Restraining Order, which is modeled on California’s effective domestic violence prevention laws.

If a judge determines someone to be a risk and issues a GVRO, that order will:

  • Temporarily prohibit that person from purchasing or possessing firearms or ammunition
  • Allow law enforcement to temporarily remove any firearms or ammunition already in that person’s possession
  • Include procedures to allow the person have his or her guns and ammunition returned

The bill, endorsed by the Law Center and sponsored by Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, passed by a wide margin in the state legislature in August. It joins a growing number of smart, common-sense gun policies that continue to give California the strongest gun laws in the United States.

Listen to one of our staff attorneys, Lindsey Zwicker, discuss the importance of California’s GVRO law on Airtalk with Larry Mantle.

Read the Law Center’s comprehensive legal memo on the new GVRO law.

GUN LAWS: California and The Nation – What Should Be Done? January 17, 2013

On January 17th, a wide range of views and expert voices tackled one of the most polarizing issues vexing our nation. A spate of recent high-profile massacres, including the shootings in Newtown, Connecticut, has sparked a vigorous national conversation about designing new laws – at the state and federal level – that protect all citizens, including the rights of responsible gun owners. More than 30,000 people die in American annually from gun violence, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The panel discussed the national issues and California’s role in the dialogue regarding proposals to ban assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines, to pass stricter laws to buy and license guns and ammunition, to require gun vendors to do background checks on potential owners, and report sales so law enforcement can track guns and their owners.

View Part 1 and Part 2 of the conversation here.

Location: San Francisco Commonwealth Club Office
595 Market Street, 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94105
Time: 5:30 p.m. check-in; 6 p.m. program
Price: $20 standard, $12 Commonwealth Club members, Free for students (with valid ID)

Joining the Panel:
Nancy Skinner, Member, California State Assembly
Benjamin Van Houten, Managing Attorney, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence
Sgt. Kelly Dunn, SFPD Special Victims and Psychiatric Liaison Units
John Diaz, Editorial Page Editor, San Francisco Chronicle – Moderator

Read more about the event on the Commonwealth Club’s website.