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Use of a gun law could have prevented deaths

Use of a gun law could have prevented deaths

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Last week, Yountville Mayor John Dunbar, along with the Town Council, issued a proclamation about the triple murder that happened on March 9, 2018.

It appropriately honored the three women who were gunned down and the remarkable contributions they made. Specifically, it honored “Dr. Jennifer Gray Golick, Executive Director Christine Loeber and Dr. Jennifer Gonzales Shushereba and the legacy of compassion, professionalism and commitment to serving others that is memorialized by the way they lived their professional and personal lives.”

It also stated that, “Pathway Home included programs and services that supported military veterans who struggled with mental and emotional challenges, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), among other clinical conditions.”

Yet, when it described the gunman, there was no mention of the fact that he had been a patient at the facility before his forced departure or that there was knowledge of the threat he posed in advance. This was a missed opportunity, perhaps avoided due to pending lawsuits, because this tragedy might have been prevented and elected leaders need to address such an issue when people are paying attention to prevent future shootings.

This isn’t speculation. In a report about the legality of the Deputy Sheriff’s firing of his weapon during this crisis, Napa Valley District Attorney Allison Haley wrote that the shooter had previously issued death threats towards the women who were killed. She wrote that the “death threats were not generalized; rather, he had specifically threatened to kill members of the clinical staff by coming onto the premises and shooting them with a gun.” Action could have been taken on this, but it wasn’t.

Three years earlier, in late 2014, California Governor Jerry Brown signed the Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) law. As Reuters reported at the time, under the law “immediate family members and law enforcement agencies could ask a judge to order guns temporarily removed from certain individuals. The restraining order would last 21 days, and could be extended up to a year, after a notice and a hearing.” The aim is to disarm people found to be a danger to themselves or others.

Imagine if the GVRO law had been used to investigate and remove the shooter’s guns and raise his profile on law enforcement’s radar. That it wasn’t suggests that no one with prior knowledge of the shooter’s threats was aware of the law. Although a website called speakforsafety.org spells out how to use it, it would seem that California must put far more resources behind getting the word out about this potentially life-saving law.

Thus, as our nation faces the third anniversary of this horrific story, every proclamation and mention of it in the news should describe how the use of the GVRO law might have saved these three heroic women. Doing so is sure to save lives and give their preventable deaths some meaning.

Paul A. Friedman, Founder/Executive Director

Safer Country

Alexandria, Va.

Note: Safer Country, safercountry.org, is working to bring attention to laws such as California's GVRO in every one of the 19 states that have them. Using them can save lives. As well, SC wants to see similar laws passed in the remaining 31 states that lack them.

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