Bill to Restrict Gun Possession for People at Risk of Harming Themselves or Others Signed by Governor

Friday, September 28, 2018

SACRAMENTO—Assemblymember Evan Low’s (D-Silicon Valley) legislation to restrict firearm possession among people admitted under multiple 5150 holds, an involuntary psychiatric hold for individuals at risk of harming themselves or others, was signed by the Governor today.

AB 1968 will remove the firearms of someone who has been placed on a 5150 hold twice in one year and prohibits the admitting facility from filling out the petition form on the individual’s behalf. The individual could still petition the court for a hearing to have his or her guns returned.

“People at risk of harming themselves or others should not have easy access to firearms,” said Assemblymember Low. “AB 1968 tightens our laws to keep firearms out of the hands of people who may be suicidal or violent. By signing this bill today, the Governor will save lives.”

A 5150 hold is named after the section of the California Welfare and Institutions code that authorizes people who are deemed to be a danger to themselves or others to be placed on an involuntary psychiatric hold for 72 hours.

Under current law, people who are admitted under one 5150 hold have their firearms taken away for five years but the law allows for them to petition the court for a hearing to have their guns returned. Anecdotal evidence indicates that some mental health institutions fill out the petition on behalf of the individual upon release. Under current law, hearings must take place within 30 days of the petition’s submission, which is often not enough time to obtain the necessary medical and psychiatric records and prepare for the hearing.

Assembly Bill 1968 indefinitely removes the firearms of an individual who has been placed on a 5150 hold twice in one year, with the option to petition the court every five years for a hearing to have them returned. The admitting facility would be prohibited from filling out the petition form on the individual’s behalf, and the petition would include an authorization for the release of the person’s mental health records to the appropriate district attorney. The hearing would take place within 60 days of receipt.

The bill is supported by the California District Attorneys Association, the California Association of Psychiatric Technicians, the California Federation of Teachers, the California Psychological Association, the California State Sheriffs Association, the Santa Barbara Chapter of the Coalition Against Gun Violence, and the Police Officers Research Association of California (PORAC).

The 5150 statute deals particularly with people having acute mental health episodes and allows the state to evaluate the individual in question. In addition, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention mental health afflictions are a leading contributor to suicide, and 51% of suicides are committed with firearms.