California mulls bill to remove guns from potential offenders

Wed Aug 27, 2014 5:48pm EDT

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(Reuters) - A bill allowing family members to ask a judge to order firearms removed from people likely to commit gun violence advanced in California on Wednesday, one of several gun control measures up for votes in the last week of the state's legislative session.

The measure was introduced after police near Santa Barbara said they were unable to confiscate weapons from a man who later went on a rampage and killed six people, despite concern from his family that he was in poor mental health and might become violent.

The bill passed the senate 23-8. It passed the assembly once, but now goes back for a vote on amendments before heading to Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

If Brown, who has steered a centrist course on gun control legislation, signs the bill, California would be the first U.S. state to enact such a law.

"Nothing can bring back the life of my son, but there are common-sense solutions that can help ensure other loved ones aren't killed by preventable gun violence," said Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, was killed by 22-year-old Elliott Rodger in the rampage in Isla Vista in May.

"This bill will save lives and spare other families from suffering the anguish we experience each day."

The bill, sponsored by Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner and Das Williams, creates a so-called gun violence restraining order in the court system. Under it, immediate family members and law enforcement agencies could petition a judge to order guns temporarily removed from certain individuals.

The restraining order would last 21 days, and could extend it up to a year, after a notice and a hearing.

The bill has wide support from law enforcement agencies, and is based on an existing law that temporarily blocks people with domestic violence restraining orders from owning a gun.

"If it can save one life, one family from that agony, it will be worth it," state senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Democrat, said during debate.

Several Republican senators spoke against the bill, saying there are already measures to keep guns away from dangerous and unstable people.

Critics also say the bill infringes on the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.

"This bill really misses the mark of trying to achieve a public policy goal without infringing on constitutional rights," said Brandon Combs, president of California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees.

(Joaquin Palomino reported from San Francisco; Editing by Sharon Bernstein and Sandra Maler)

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