The Gun Violence Restraining Order: An Opportunity for Common Ground in the Gun Violence Debate

Kelly Roskam, Legal Director, Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence
Vicka Chaplin, Public Health Analyst, Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence

In March of 2013, shortly after the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, experts in the areas of mental health, public health, law enforcement, law and gun violence prevention met for a two-day conference to discuss research and identify areas of consensus regarding the intersection of gun violence, public health and mental health. This meeting resulted in the formation of the Consortium for Risk-Based Firearm Policy and the publication of two reports outlining research and recommending evidence-based gun violence prevention policies at the State and Federal level.

The Consortium determined that law enforcement and family members needed a tool to keep firearms out of the hands of individuals who may be a danger to themselves or others, but who have committed no crime, and do not meet the clinical criteria for involuntary psychiatric hospitalization.

To address this compelling public safety need, the Consortium reviewed innovative state statutes from Connecticut and Indiana and developed a proposal for a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO). A GVRO would “authorize law enforcement to remove guns from any individual who poses an immediate threat of harm to self or others,” and “create a new civil restraining order process to allow private citizens to petition the court to request that guns be temporarily removed from a family member or intimate partner who poses an immediate risk of harm to self or others.”

An important component of this recommendation was a restoration process that provided respondents the opportunity to participate in a hearing to seek the return of removed firearms and a suggested duration for the order of 1 year.3 This article outlines the history of GVRO-style policies in Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California, and summarizes similar proposals that were considered in Virginia during the 2015, 2016, and 2017 legislative sessions.

The purposes of this article are to update the original article, which appeared in the Institute of Law, Psychiatry, & Public Policy “Developments in Mental Health Law” October 2015 issue, by incorporating amendments to the California GVRO, summarize similar laws in Massachusetts, and Illinois that were previously not discussed, and summarize a California-style GVRO law that was enacted in Washington State by ballot initiative in November 2016.

Read the entire article here.