Jared Loughner's parents knew he could be dangerous. In the months before his shooting rampage in a Tucson parking lot, they took away his shotgun. They disabled his car at night. They advised him to seek mental health care. But none of those actions stopped Loughner from purchasing a handgun and taking a taxicab to an event where Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was speaking. He opened fire, killing six people and injuring 13 others, including Giffords.
"The parents identified this risk, and—my goodness—they were taking some really bold steps to try to prevent what happened, but it wasn't enough," said Shannon Frattaroli, a gun violence prevention researcher at Johns Hopkins University. "They didn't have enough tools at their disposal to prevent that new purchase."
Frattaroli is a coauthor on a new paper in the journal Behavioral Sciences & the Law, which advocates for a new option for parents like Loughner's: gun violence restraining orders (GVRO). Like a domestic violence restraining order, GVROs give families an option to petition a court when they fear the actions of a loved one.
In September 2014, California became the first state to establish a GVRO system. When the law comes into effect in 2016, immediate family members and domestic partners will be able to petition courts to have guns removed from those they fear may act in violence, and prohibit them from purchasing firearms for the length of the restraining order. Law enforcement officers also will be able to request GVROs. Initial restraining orders will last up to 21 days, but can be extended to one year.