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Think Progress

New California Law Seeks To Reduce Violent Encounters Between Cops And Mentally Ill People

BY CARIMAH TOWNES POSTED ON JANUARY 8, 2015

A new California law encourages officers to consult the state’s firearm ownership database before they perform what is known as a “welfare check” so that they are aware if the individual they are checking in on is armed. Officers typically conduct welfare checks of people perceived to be a threat to themselves or others. Many of these individuals are people with mental illnesses, and their encounters with police can sometimes escalate into violence. Indeed, in one incident that is currently before the Supreme Court, officers were called to assist a schizophrenic woman who was perceived as dangerous, and wound up shooting her six times. …

… Nevertheless, the bill has significant limitations, and Jeffrey Butts, Director of the Research and Evaluation Center at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, believes that the law is predicated on a number of assumptions about what kinds of systems are already in place to track firearms. “One problem with the new law is that it presumes a good firearms database that’s up-to-date,” Butts told ThinkProgress, “It also presumes that there’s some meaningful connection between the registration of a purchase and the presence of those weapons in that home, at that time.”

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