El Dorado County DA calls for legislation correction

New law permits mentally ill violent offender to purchase and possess firearms
By: Rachel Zirin, Senior Reporter
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Assembly Bill 1810 became a law in California on June 27, which includes the elimination of firearm prohibitions for mentally ill individuals who commit violent crimes, according to a statement the El Dorado County Office of the District Attorney.

“This poorly drafted legislation unintentionally eliminated firearm prohibitions for mentally ill individuals who commit violent crimes, creating a significant threat to the safety of our communities,” the statement said. “This law was hidden inside a budget trailer bill, a highly unusual practice that provided no opportunities for public safety experts, law enforcement or supporters of crime victims’ rights to be heard or suggest necessary amendments to this bill to avoid these dangerous consequences.”

This new law allows mentally ill offenders to be placed in a pre-trail mental health diversion program for every time of crime – no matter how violent – including serial rape and murder. Because this is a pre-trial program, the long-standing legal prohibitions on buying or possessing firearms do not apply. As a result, California now gives mentally ill individuals who commit a crime greater access to firearms than all other offenders. In addition, AB1810 neglected to include provisions allowing for restitution for victims of these crimes, the statement said.

Before the passage of this new law, when a defendant was found incompetent to stand trial not guilty by reason of inanity, or was convicted of any felony or violent misdemeanor, they were prohibited from owning or possessing firearms. None of these restrictions apply to a mentally ill offender placed on diversion under this new law, even when charged with committing a violent crime, the statement said. Instead, they are free to purchase, own and possession firearms while going through the program and may continue to do so after completing diversion.

“Mental illness within the criminal justice system is clearly an issue that must be addressed,” said District Attorney Vern Pierson. “While AB1810 was a well-intentioned effort to address this important issue, it was poorly drafted and must be immediately amended to fix these significant public safety and victims’ rights concerns.”

According to the statement, district attorneys and their partners in public safety from across the state have shared their concerns with the Governor’s Office. As a result of these discussions, the Brown Administration has proposed language that would amend AB1810 and correct the unintended negative impact the law has on public safety and victims’ rights.

On Aug. 21, the El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office delivered letters to each Assembly member and Senator asking them to support the proposed emergency amendments to this new law that will close the dangerous firearm loop hole, add victim restitution and narrow the application of this law so that it excludes individuals who commit the most serious and violent crimes such as sexual assault and murder, said the statement.