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GVRO: What the Gun Violence Restraining Order Law Means

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By William Peacock, Esq. on October 08, 2014 10:00 AM

Every fearful conversation that I have heard from gun owners and conspiracy theorists has finally come true in California: The government can come seize your guns, though only if a family member claims that you are a danger to yourself or others.

Still, that's not going to assuage the fears of many gun owners out there. Assembly Bill 1014, drafted after the Santa Barbara shooting and signed by Gov. Jerry Brown, creates the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), a set of procedures that piggybacks the current Domestic Violence Restraining Order (DVRO) system. The law will allow police officers to temporarily seize the restrained party's firearms, reports Reuters.

Here are the specifics of the legislation, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2016:

Who Can Initiate a GVRO?

"An immediate family member of a person or a law enforcement officer may file a petition" which describes, in detail, all known firearms and ammunition that is in the subject's custody and provides the court with a "substantial likelihood" that the subject "poses a significant danger, in the near future, of personal injury to himself, herself, or another by having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm."

The court shall consider these factors:

  • A recent threat or act of violence directed at oneself or another;
  • A recent violation of an emergency or existing, unexpired protective order;
  • Conviction of certain offenses that make gun ownership illegal; and
  • A pattern of violent acts or threats in the past 12 months.

And it may consider these:

  • Unlawful or reckless use of a gun,
  • History of use of physical force against another person,
  • Prior felony arrests,
  • A history of violating protective orders,
  • Documentary evidence of recent drug or alcohol-related criminal offenses or ongoing abuse of such substances, and
  • Evidence of a recent gun purchase.

A GVRO prohibits the subject from having in his or her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving, or attempting to purchase or receive, a firearm or ammunition.

How Long Does a GVRO Last?

There are ex parte temporary orders which last for 21 days. Within 21 days, a full hearing must happen before a one-year order can be issued. That order can be extended year-by-year with additional hearings.

At the hearing, the petitioner has to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the subject is dangerous.

The subject of a GVRO is also entitled to bring a single hearing, at any time, to dissolve an order.

Where Do the Guns Go?

When a law enforcement officer serves a GVRO order, he or she can either demand immediate surrender of all firearms and ammunition or give the subject 24 hours to either surrender everything or transfer it to a dealer. A receipt, either from law enforcement or a dealer, must be submitted to the court within 48 hours.

Law enforcement officers must return the guns upon the expiration of the order.

Law enforcement can also obtain a search warrant to carry out an order if the subject is uncooperative.

Whose Guns Are Taken?

The subject of the order's guns are taken, obviously. As for cohabitants and third parties, if the guns can be secured out of the possession of the subject of the order, they won't be seized. (Don't share the combination to the safe, in other words.)

If a third party's guns are seized, and that party can prove ownership to law enforcement, the agency shall return the guns, though again, the whole "keeping them out of reach" thing likely applies.

What About False Reports and Violations of GVROs?

A false report is a misdemeanor, while a violation is a misdemeanor and carries a five-year ban on gun and ammo ownership or possession, commencing after the GVRO expires.

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