For Richard Martinez it was his son, shot down in a rampage that made national headlines; for Thomas Allman it was his brother, joining the unremarked thousands who end their lives with guns each year. The Sacramento Bee says that losing troubled loved ones to firearms prompted both men to advocate for a new California law that takes effect Jan. 1. Passed in response to the 2014 Isla Vista massacre that killed Martinez's 20-year-old son, it will allow law enforcement or family members to seek restraining orders suspending gun ownership for people who pose a threat to themselves or others. In the aftermath of the shooting, victims and authorities were haunted by the revelation that the family of killer Elliot Rodger had expressed concerns to mental health workers. Sheriff's deputies dispatched to Rodger's apartment departed without touching the three handguns he had legally obtained.
“In many instances – Isla Vista, Tucson, the Navy Yard – family members saw red flags which indicated their family member may be unstable,” Martinez said. The restraining orders “give families and law enforcement a tool they didn't previously have in these situations where someone is mentally unstable and a substantial danger to others.” California law already bars gun ownership for a variety of crimes and for people whom peace officers or health officials assess as hazards and admit to mental health facilities. The new orders can apply to people who, while they have not been convicted of a crime or committed under so-called 5150 holds, have still alarmed family members or authorities. Allman said the option would “patch a hole that's been there as long as I've been in law enforcement.” “There's always a person who doesn't meet the 5150 criteria and we don't have the right to take their firearms,” Allman said. “Prior to this bill families were very restricted in what they could do.”