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Know the Laws: California

UPDATED August 7, 2017

Gun Violence Restraining Orders

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A gun violence restraining order temporarily restricts a respondent's access to guns in certain situations to protect him/her and others.

Basic info

back to topWhat is a gun violence restraining order?

A gun violence restraining order is a civil court order that prohibits an individual (called the respondent) from having firearms or ammunition in his/her custody or control or from or attempting to purchase or receive a firearm or ammunition. 

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back to topWho can file for a gun violence restraining order?

You can file for a gun violence restraining order if you are the respondent’s immediate family member.*  You are considered an immediate family member if you are the respondent’s:

  • spouse (including a common law spouse if established in a state that recognizes common law marriage);
  • domestic partner;
  • parent;
  • child;
  • second-degree relative (such as an uncle, aunt, nephew, niece, grandparent, grandchild, etc.); or
  • current household member or regularly lived in the respondent’s household within the previous 6 months before filing.**

Law enforcement officers can also request gun violence restraining orders.***  Note: You can request that a law enforcement officer file a petition even if you are not the respondent’s immediate family member.

* Cal. Penal Code § 18105(a)(1),(2)
** Cal. Penal Code § 422.4(b)(3)
*** Cal Penal Code § 18105(a)(1)

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back to topWhat types of gun violence restraining orders are there? How long do they last?

There are three types of gun violence restraining orders: temporary emergency orders (ex parte orders that may be filed by law enforcement only), emergency (ex parte) gun violence restraining orders and gun violence restraining orders issued after notice and a hearing.

Temporary Emergency (ex parte) Gun Violence Restraining Order – Law enforcement (but not immediate family members) may ask a judge, orally or in writing, to issue a temporary emergency order any time of the day or night.  The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for the judge to issue the order.  This type of order remains in effect for up to 21 days after it is issued.*

Emergency (ex parte) Gun Violence Restraining Order - Law enforcement officers or the respondent’s immediate family member can file a petition to request that the judge issue an emergency ex parte gun violence restraining order.*1  The respondent does not need to be in the courtroom or have notice of the case for the judge to issue an emergency ex parte order.  Emergency ex parte orders last for up to 21 days.*2

To issue an emergency ex parte gun violence restraining order, the judge must find that:

  • the respondent poses a significant danger of causing personal injury to himself/herself or another person by having in his/her custody or control, owning, purchasing, possessing, or receiving a firearm or ammunition; and
  • a gun violence restraining order is necessary to prevent personal injury to the respondent, you, or another person because less restrictive methods either have been tried and did not work or are inappropriate for the circumstances.*3

Gun Violence Restraining Order after Notice and Hearing - Before the emergency ex parte order expires, the court sets a date for a hearing at which the respondent has the opportunity to be present and object to the order being issued.  If the judge issues a gun violence restraining order after the respondent has notice and the opportunity to appear, the judge can issue the order for one year.*4

* Cal. Penal Code § 18125
*1 Cal. Penal Code § 18150(a)(1)
*2 Cal. Penal Code §§ 18125(a),(b); 18165
*3 Cal. Penal Code § 18125(a)(2)
*4 Cal. Penal Code § 18175(d)

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back to topHow can a gun violence restraining order help me?

A gun violence restraining order can require that the respondent:

  • not have a gun or ammunition;
  • not buy or attempt to buy a gun or ammunition; and
  • turn in any guns and ammunition to the police or sell them to (or store them with) a licensed gun dealer.*

* Cal. Penal Code §§ 18100; 18125(b); Petition for Firearms Restraining Order

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Getting the order

back to topHow do I get a gun violence restraining order?

The steps to get a gun violence restraining order are similar to the steps to get a domestic violence restraining order, but you will fill out different forms.  When filing a petition for a gun violence restraining order, you must describe the number, types, and locations of any firearms and ammunition you believe the respondent currently possesses or controls.* 

* Cal. Penal Code § 18107

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back to topHow will the judge make a decision?

In deciding whether to grant a gun violence restraining order, the judge must consider the following evidence:

  • a recent (within 6 months) threat of violence, or act of violence by the respondent, either self-inflicted or to others;
  • a violation of a current domestic violence emergency protective order or an emergency stalking protective order;
  • a recent violation of an unexpired domestic violence protective order, a civil harassment order, a protection order prohibiting intimidation of witnesses, or a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse;
  • a conviction for a crime that prohibits purchase and possession of firearms under California law; and
  • a pattern of violent acts or threats within the past 12 months by the respondent directed toward
  • himself/herself or to others.*

The judge may also consider any other relevant evidence that indicates an increased risk for violence, such as:

  • the respondent’s unlawful and reckless use, display, or brandishing (flaunting) of a firearm;
  • the respondent’s history of use, attempted use, or threatened use of physical force against another person;
  • the respondent’s prior arrest for a felony offense;
  • the respondent’s history of a (non-recent) violation of a domestic violence emergency protective order or stalking emergency protective order;
  • the respondent’s history of a (non-recent) violation of a domestic violence protective order, a civil harassment order, a protection order declaring a minor child a dependent child, a protection order prohibiting intimidation of witnesses, or a restraining order to prevent elder or dependent adult abuse;
  • police reports and conviction records of the respondent’s recent criminal offenses that involve controlled substances or alcohol;
  • documentary evidence of ongoing abuse of controlled substances or alcohol; and
  • evidence of the respondent recently gaining access to firearms, ammunition, or other deadly weapons.**

* Cal. Penal Code § 18155(b)(1)
** Cal. Penal Code § 18155(b)(2)

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back to topCan a gun violence restraining order be renewed?

Yes.  A gun violence restraining order issued after a hearing can be issued for up to one year.  You or a law enforcement officer can request that the judge renew the order if you (or the officer) make that request within 3 months of the order expiring.*

* Cal. Penal Code § 18190

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