Santa Clara County beefs up enforcement of red flag gun law
SAN JOSE -- In response to recent mass shootings, Santa Clara County announced a major expansion of a gun violence restraining order program, more than quadrupling the staff from five to 23 people.
The Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved nearly $1 million Tuesday to expand the task force, which focuses on curbing illegal gun trafficking and armed threats.
The funding, $931,166, will support the addition of five more positions within the team, which operates under the county District Attorney's Office.
State and federal grants will support an additional seven new positions with the team, while the San Jose Police Department; county Sheriff's Office; the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; and the federal Department of Homeland Security will also add positions to the task force.
"California has some of the most robust and extensive gun laws in the country. But they need to be meaningful; they need to be effective," said prosecutor James Gibbons-Shapiro with the district attorney's office.
Gibbon-Shapiro says in order for those laws to be effective they have to be enforced. He says he's encouraged by the commitment to add more prosecutors and law enforcement to the gun violence strike team.
"We need to up our capacity so that every time someone makes a threat, that we have the resources to get that court order and to remove the guns from that person," he said.
Under the current staffing, the county has five prosecutors and law enforcement officers to file for restraining orders and then physically seize the guns.
In 2021, the county removed guns from 145 people using so-called red flag gun laws.
"The more firearms that we remove from people who shouldn't have them or aren't properly taking care of them, the more lives we're going to save," said Supervisor Cindy Chavez.
But many gun rights advocates see the issue differently.
"Somebody's rights are being trampled," said Sam Paredes of Gun Owners of California. He says red-flag laws are often overreaching and overused.
"The level of evidence that somebody has to present to a court to get a red-flag law is very low. It's very low," he said.
Prosecutors say there are safeguards built into the system, with the goal - in the interim - to keep the gun owner and the public safe.
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