Sen. Blakespear Introduces Bill to Keep People Who are Mentally Ill Safe, Away from Guns
SB 1002 closes gaps in current law to ensure people who have been put on 72-hour mental health holds relinquish their firearms as required
SAN DIEGO – Sen. Catherine Blakespear, D-Encinitas, has introduced bipartisan legislation to improve the implementation of a law designed to keep guns out of the hands of people experiencing mental health crises and reduce the risk of gun violence.
Current law mandates that anyone placed on a 72-hour mental health hold must refrain from possessing a firearm. Unfortunately, gaps in the law make it difficult for local law enforcement to ensure that newly prohibited persons turn over their weapons. Because of these gaps, thousands of Californians placed on mental health holds never turn in their firearms.
More than 4,800 people statewide who are required to relinquish their firearms due to mental health-related issues have not done so, according to the latest California Department of Justice statistics. This presents a significant danger not only to the individuals themselves, who face increased risk of suicide, but also to the general public, who could be subject to a mass shooting.
“In California, we have strong gun safety laws, but our laws are only as effective as their implementation,” Sen. Blakespear said. “SB 1002 takes the next step forward in protecting Californians from gun violence by adding measures to ensure that people who are placed on mental health holds turn in their firearms as required.”
San Diego County Sheriff Kelly Martinez, San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott and Republican Assemblymember Laurie Davies on Friday joined staff from Sen. Blakespear’s office in San Diego to make the announcement. The offices of the sheriff and city attorney are co-sponsors of the bill, and Davies is a co-author.
SB 1002 has four major components. The bill:
- Provides individuals a clear deadline of 72 hours after discharge from a health care facility to turn over their firearms.
- Requires the California Department of Justice to inform the person of their firearm prohibition after discharge, ensuring the individual has been informed of their prohibition multiple times.
- Increases coordination between the California Department of Justice and local law enforcement agencies by permitting local agencies greater access to information.
- Directs health care facilities and courts, where involved, to inform individuals how to relinquish their weapons according to local procedures and the law.
Taken together, the measures help individuals placed on mental health holds understand the requirement and how to follow it, and they help law enforcement to follow up to ensure it is met.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department actively works to track down people who must turn in their weapons. From 2017 to 2023, the department reviewed, on average, 8,750 mental health hold cases each year, ensuring they followed up when a person had a firearm. In most cases, the individual voluntarily complies.
"SB 1002 enhances law enforcement's ability to utilize education and outreach efforts to provide clarity in a process that can be overwhelming, especially when an individual is returning from a critical mental health state,” Sheriff Kelly Martinez said. “Any opportunity for us to bridge service delivery gaps, with a compassionate approach, is a step in the right direction. Thank you, Senator Blakespear, for authoring this piece of legislation."
Under California Welfare & Institution Code § 5150, people who are experiencing mental health crises and are essentially unable to take care of themselves or are considered a danger to themselves or others can be involuntarily held at a health care institution for 72 hours. From 2012-2022, California averaged 120,000 holds each year under this law.
“I am pleased to support this partnership between the Legislature, law enforcement and our prosecutors, because the issue of gun violence is too large for any of us to solve in isolation,” said San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott. “We have learned through too many preventable gun deaths that strong laws are only as good as the structures in place to enforce them. That is why I am proud to co-sponsor SB 1002, which is laser-focused on creating a strong infrastructure to keep deadly weapons out of the hands of those who have already been determined to pose a threat to themselves or others.”
The legislation is supported by Giffords and San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention.
"Laws to remove firearms from those who are a danger to themselves or others are critical to public safety," said Therese Hymer, a board member of San Diegans for Gun Violence Prevention. "Those who have been placed under a section 5150 hold are currently required to relinquish any firearms they own. However, this is often not happening. Senator Blakespear's bill will ensure that current laws limiting gun ownership for such individuals are fully implemented, and will prevent tragic shootings."
In addition to authoring SB 1002, Sen. Blakespear has joined with Sen. Nancy Skinner this year to author SB 899, which would improve the implementation of California’s Red Flag laws.
Elected in 2022, Sen. Blakespear represents Senate District 38, which covers northern San Diego County and part of Orange County. To learn more about the district and Sen. Blakespear, visit her Senate website.