The idea of a gun violence restraining order is being proposed in wake of the recent killings just off the UCSB campus and the warning signs that were fully recognized too late. The idea is that family and friends could seek a restraining order from a judge in an effort to potentially prevent violent individuals from buying or keeping guns. The judge, upon examination of all evidence and consideration of factors indicating risk of self harm or harm to others, would then sign an order temporarily stopping an individual from buying or possessing a firearm - and periodically reassess. This decision would create a clear path of action for police and judicial authorities to search for and confiscate weapons if they believe individuals could be a threat to themselves or others.
I have worked in healthcare for 35 years and some portion of this has been in acute psychiatric hospitals and consulting to community mental health providers. During this time, I've had to navigate the fine line between HIPAA/patient rights/laws and interventions in situations where there was only a perceived risk for escalation. After this most recent event I wondered if it was time to revisit the 5150 criteria of danger to self, danger to others or gravely disabled.
I do recognize that individuals who are truly intent on doing harm to others or themselves will likely be successful - ultimately. Thus, in some cases we must accept, learn from and move forward from unfortunate events. However, there are times when we could have done more - but public policy stood in the way. Each time these recent events and the investigations unfolded, we identifed missed opportunities to intervene and change the course that lead to death and destruction of lives.