Uptake of gun violence restraining orders (GVROs), which temporarily prohibit the possession and purchase of firearms and ammunition from individuals at particularly high risk of harming themselves or others with a firearm, has been slow and heterogenous across California. Insights into the implementation process and perceived effectiveness of the law could guide implementation in California and the many states that have enacted or are considering enacting such a law.
We conducted 21 semi-structured interviews with 27 key informants, including judges, law enforcement officers, city and district attorneys, policy experts, and firearm violence researchers. Analysis of transcripts was guided by grounded theory and the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR).
The following constructs emerged within 4 CFIR domains as salient features of implementation: 1) implementation characteristics: risk of violence, cost, and adaptability; 2) outer setting: interagency coordination and local firearm ideology; 3) inner setting: readiness for implementation and law enforcement firearm culture; and 4) implementation process: planning and engaging with those involved in implementation. Key informants perceived the law to be effective, particularly for preventing firearm suicide, but agreed that more research was needed. While most indicated that the law resulted in positive outcomes, concerns about the potential for class- and race-based inequities were also raised.
Implementation of the GVRO law in California was hampered by a lack of funding to support local proactive implementation efforts. This resulted in ad hoc policies and procedures, leading to inconsistent practices and widespread confusion among those responsible for implementation. In states that have not begun implementation, we recommend dedicating funding for implementation and creating local procedures statewide prior to the law’s rollout. In California, recommendations include providing training on the GVRO law—including an explication of agency-specific roles, responsibilities, and procedures—to officers, city attorneys, and civil court judges.