The city of San Diego is playing a major role in enforcing the so-called Red Flag Law, which allows law enforcement or family members to ask a judge for permission to take away the guns belonging to people who are a danger to themselves or others.
In just the last week, NBC 7 Investigates found the city has made this request three times and other cities throughout the county and state are following the city's lead.
“The potential for gun violence impacts us wherever we are, and that's one of the reasons our program is so successful,” said City Attorney Mara Elliott.
Elliott has been credited with creating a program to enforce the law that went into effect in 2016. The shootings at University of California, Santa Barbara in 2014 were an impetus for the law. The shooter’s parents had tried unsuccessfully to get the shooter help.
To date, Elliott’s office reportedly has obtained about 300 gun violence emergency protective order and 400 firearms have been seized, including roughly 40 assault weapons. The program has caught on.
“We have been training other law enforcement agencies throughout the state of California,” said Elliott. She also said her program has received national attention, with Senator Diane Feinstein exploring the possibility of replicating the city’s program.
NBC 7 Investigates found dozens of orders filed by local and state agencies. One concerning a potential suicide was requested in August by Carlsbad police. According to the gun violence emergency protective order, the subject had numerous firearms in his home safe. Another order concerning threats made by a co-worker to shoot up a work place was requested in August by the California Highway Patrol. According to the order, that subject owned a minimum of 12 guns.
“We never know how many lives we’ve saved,” Elliott said, “but every time we read about a mass shooting, we always wonder, if there had been the ability to get a gun violence restraining order, could lives have been changed?”
Vidal Nuno says “It would definitely help people, innocent people who don't expect something to happen to them.”
Nuno says he had a close call with an angry former son-in-law, who he says should not have had a gun. Nuno was working in his yard when he saw the former relative drive up in a van.
“I was like why does he have the door open to the van? He reaches in to the side door and as he's reaching in he's pulling out the shot gun,” said Nuno. Nuno believes his ex- son in law would have shot him that day in March had it not been for his own quick reactions.
“I grabbed it and I’m like, are you crazy? And I just shoved it and threw it back.” In that case, San Diego police sent a petition for a gun violence restraining order to Elliott’s office.
Elliott said people now know they can act if their family member is in trouble. According to the law, if a judge orders guns to be taken from someone the gunowner must give up their guns for 21 days.