All of California’s gun control laws couldn’t save Jose Hernandez III, one of the nine victims of the Valley Transportation Authority mass shooting. Despite our best efforts to achieve gun safety, there is still a catastrophic cost. It is a bill we all must pay.
In California, we have a 10-day waiting period to purchase a gun. It’s illegal for anyone who doesn’t have a license to carry a gun in public. To buy a handgun, you must be at least 21. Yet guns are California’s third leading cause of death among kids. A gun suicide occurs every six hours. A mass shooting leaves an innocent person, such as Jose Hernandez III, dead every eight days. It’s always a terrible price to pay. Jose was a family man, a master mechanic and a guitarist in his church band. A disgruntled employee with a semiautomatic handgun killed Jose and eight others just a five-minute walk from my office.
If our gun laws are so strict, why is there still so much bloodshed? As a district attorney, I know that many well-meaning people have written well-meaning laws. However, many of those laws have been blunted by the bitter politics of gun control — leaving us with only futility and funerals.
There is a path to get beyond thoughts and prayers. I call it the California Gun Violence Prevention Act (GVPA.) The statewide initiative is a constitutional and common sense gun safety initiative.
GVPA concentrates on three areas of gun violence: prevention, safety and healing.
GVPA will provide mental health treatment to those who temporarily lose their firearm due to a Red Flag law or a domestic violence restraining order. Our duty is to ensure that violent, impulsive individuals are fully recovered from mental health issues so that our communities remain fully safe.
Another way to prevent gun violence is by raising awareness about the basics of gun safety. GVPA will make it the law that gun owners must take at least four hours of gun safety training and pass an in-person test. That’s roughly equivalent to what we require of every registered car owner in California.
GVPA also prioritizes the victims of gun violence. It creates a statewide network of Trauma Recovery Centers. These centers will provide gun victims with vital counseling services and state-funded restitution — no family should choose between burying their loved one and paying their monthly bills.
As Silicon Valley’s DA, I believe in and practice innovation. For instance, my office is a national leader in the prompt testing of rape kits. We achieved that level of justice and safety by implementing state-of-the-art technology and dogged efficiency. We can have the same results by testing all firearms and all shell casings recovered from crime scenes. That is why GVPA requires law enforcement to gather all of this critical evidence and have crime labs analyze and upload that forensic information to a national database. This helps detectives connect shootings, identify perpetrators, and solve more gun crimes more quickly.
Finally, GVPA will require all guns to be secured with trigger locks or stored in a secure firearm safe. Trigger locks can be key, combination or biometric – a technology used in most smart phones that opens the device with the user’s thumb print. Implementing these practical measures will save countless lives by protecting children and teens from accidental gun deaths and suicides. And, a criminal who steals a trigger locked gun will only possess a piece of harmless metal, not a deadly weapon.
By supporting GVPA (gvpanow.org), Californians can provide some meaning to the short life of Jose Hernandez III. Together, we can all move beyond thoughts and prayers to action and solutions.
Jeff Rosen is the Santa Clara County District Attorney.
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