Believing that the first line of defense against violence by unstable individuals lies with those that know them best, California lawmakers introduced a gun control bill before Congress Thursday that would permit family members to confiscate weapons from people posing a threat.
Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Lois Capps co-authored the Pause for Safety Act, which would establish a federal grant program for states to fund a system where family members who are concerned about a person's mental stability could petition the court for a gun-violence prevention warrant.
The warrant could prevent the person from buying a gun and would empower the police to confiscate guns already owned by the person if they're deemed a threat by the court.
"We must do everything in our power to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or to others," Feinstein said in a statement released by Boxer's office.
"The bill would allow those who know the most about the condition of someone who poses a risk of committing violence to take steps to remove firearms from that individual’s possession."
The bill was inspired by the May 23 mass shooting and stabbing spree by former 22-year-old Santa Barbara City College student Elliot Rodger,
who killed six people and himself in Isla Vista, Calif. Before the shooting, Rodger’s mother had called police and asked them to check on her son after seeing a disturbing video he posted online, but authorities said the man didn't meet the criteria for an involuntary hold, despite having a history of mental illness.
"It is haunting that the family of the gunman who committed this massacre in Isla Vista was desperate to stop a tragedy, and yet they lacked the tools to do so,"
Boxer said. "My bill would give families and associates who fear someone close to them could commit violence new tools to help prevent these tragedies."
The Pause for Safety Act would make checking gun registries a mandatory and universal practice in states that have them, instead of a discretionary resource for law enforcement officers.
"No one is safe in America anymore. Not in their schools, not in a movie theater, not in their workplace, not their home, and not on a beautiful college campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean," Boxer said in introducing the measure. "We have a function here, not to allow someone who's unstable or violent, not to allow that person to get a weapon."
John C. Fields, the executive director of the California Rifles and Pistols Association, called the introduction of the bill "a knee-jerk reaction during an emotional period of time," and expressed concerns about the potential for abusing the legislation to easily confiscate a person's firearms.
"Regardless of the possible good intentions there may have been behind the concept […] what is being put forward could be horribly misused," Fields told the Daily Nexus.
"In other words, if there was somebody you couldn't stand, and they were a firearms owner, you could in effect call the authorities to them and say, 'Hey, this guy is a nutcase and you need to come over and confiscate his guns,' and there would be little or no protection against that."
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