Content warning: Gun violence
Along with the rest of America, I was absolutely horrified by last week’s news out of Texas. Nineteen children and two teachers – dead due to inaction on gun violence.
In the wake of the Buffalo shooting a few weeks ago, I began writing this op-ed about gun violence prevention with Supervisor Catherine Stefani. By the time the piece was published, more mass shootings had occurred around the country, including the tragedy in Uvalde, Texas. It’s even more unfathomable that since Uvalde, our nation has seen another 20 mass shootings.
Like every parent, my first thought when I heard the news from Texas was of my son. When I dropped Lucas off at kindergarten the next morning, I couldn’t help but look around his school, to scan entrances, exits and the location of security personnel.
Because mass shootings can happen anywhere, including here in San Francisco.
Over the years, I have worked on numerous efforts to address gun violence, against the NRA and those who do its bidding. At this moment, I’m focused on a tool we already have that can help prevent future tragedies.
In 2014, California passed our “red flag” law, which allowed law enforcement and close family members to seek civil gun violence restraining orders. GVROs block an individual who has been deemed a threat to himself or someone else from buying or possessing a gun for up to five years. This rule was later expanded to allow employers, co-workers and teachers to take similar action.
This year, on top of their busy caseloads, several attorneys in my City Attorney’s Office have successfully obtained GVROs against individuals who threatened family members, co-workers and themselves — but we need more resources to adequately implement the law. We need to educate the public about these protections, train our police officers on how to investigate these cases, and dedicate more attorneys to seek and enforce restraining orders in court.
That’s why I’m asking City Hall to expand funding for GVRO enforcement — to allow us to intervene in more cases where gun possession poses significant risks.
Due to a lack of funding, San Francisco has lagged behind other California cities in the issuance and enforcement of GVROs. For example, San Diego seeks hundreds of GVROs each year, almost ten times the comparable numbers in San Francisco.
GVROs are issued to prevent incidents like the one we saw in Buffalo. That shooter, an 18-year-old white supremacist, had a history of making violent threats, yet he was still able to purchase a gun and murder ten people who were shopping for groceries.
While red flag laws cannot stop every instance of gun violence, they can prevent many people from possessing guns who clearly should not.
Mass shootings cannot be the new normal. We have to keep our kids safe. While Congress must act to prevent these tragedies, we too must act. We must take advantage of GVROs to take guns away from those who shouldn’t have them.
The madness has to stop.