A champion of Gun Violence Restraining Orders (GVROs), John Hemmerling, is running for the top law enforcement office in San Diego and he is doing it as a Republican. More often than not, Republicans are pro-Second Amendment and resist overreaching government policies that put gun owners at risk. But not always.
Here are some common questions I have gotten recently regarding GVROs.
Q: In the examples I have seen where GVROs were used, they appeared to be criminals who were dangerous and armed. Why would anybody be against that?
A: These examples are cherry picked. None of these situations required a GVRO to confiscate the firearms. If someone is committing a violent crime, law enforcement can easily remove firearms. They have always had this ability, and nobody is disputing the usefulness of this option. However, GVROs expand the ability for law enforcement to confiscate firearms to an unprecedented level. With GVROs, law enforcement can take firearms from someone who is simply being accused. Regardless of whether he or she is convicted, s/he will have to go through the expensive court system to get his or her guns back and restore his or her ability to possess guns.
Q: Don’t we want to remove guns from domestic abusers?
A: GVROs are not required to remove a gun from a domestic abuser. Law enforcement has always been able to remove a gun from a violent criminal such as a domestic abuser. The danger with GVROs is it gives nearly anyone – a disgruntled employee, your neighbor who disagrees with your politics, a soon-to-be-ex-spouse – the ability to accuse with no proof. The accused is guilty until proven innocent, based on the fact that they own a gun.
The San Diego City Attorney’s office (Mara Elliott and John Hemmerling) have issued GVROs over accusations by spouses in emotionally charged divorces, arguments over rent between former roommates, and even Facebook memes. GVROs give law enforcement the power to escalate normal situations and help dishonest people use the power of government to hurt and intimidate others.
Q: Have GVROs always been around?
A: No. They were created by the California legislature just a few years ago. Mara Elliott and John Hemmerling have made them a priority for the San Diego City Attorney’s office, and as a result, their popularity has grown. Hemmerling has worked very hard to make them standard procedure in San Diego and across California. They have partnered with anti-gun groups and hosted programs to help other law enforcement agencies implement the program and expand their use. Hemmerling and Elliott are considered state and national leaders when it comes to implementing GVROs.
Q: So, what is the problem with GVROs?
A: If someone is breaking a law, law enforcement already has the right to take away their guns. If someone is not breaking the law, why are we taking away their gun? GVROs take away due process for gun owners, and enable people to use GVROs as weapons against people they dislike.
GVROs are a type of “red flag” law. It is a response to behavior that is a warning to friends, family, coworkers, or law enforcement, but hasn’t yet crossed the legal line. The purpose of red flag laws is to catch someone who is dangerous before they commit a violent crime. GVROs are a first major attempt and the most popular type of red flag law. However, they are used more often against criminals than someone showing “red flag” behavior, which is their intended use. Using them against criminals makes it seem as though GVROs are successful, effective, and do not infringe on the rights of individuals.
It also helps pad the numbers. They are used to take firearms away from criminals, even though a GVRO is not necessary to do so. Then, when a GVRO is used against someone who hasn’t committed a crime, the public has a hard time noticing, allowing Mara Elliott and John Hemmerling to put up a smoke screen of legitimacy. Do not be fooled. GVROs are not needed to remove firearms from a violent criminal, but are being abused in a predatory manner against someone who simply owns a gun.
John Hemmerling is a superb Republican candidate for sheriff. John is a combat Marine veteran, a former SDPD beat cop, a former top legal adviser to two SDPD police chiefs, and a hard nosed criminal prosecutor who has headed the Criminal Division in the City of San Diego for the past five years. He will be the strongest proponent of CCW’s in a generation. And we need a tough, qualified law and order sheriff in these troubled times.
A Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO) is a civil order that temporarily eliminates an individual’s right to own, possess, access, or control firearms, when that individual’s access to firearms presents a danger of self-harm or harm to another person. Penal Code §§ 18100-18205. The San Diego Police Department (SDPD), as a law enforcement agency, may petition the civil court for a GVRO against individuals who reside or who commit dangerous acts within the City of San Diego. The San Diego City Attorney’s Office (CAO) will represent officers seeking GVRO petitions in court.
These cases must be brought before a judge within 21 days. SDPD must personally serve the respondents. At the GVRO hearing, the respondent is present, may be represented by counsel, and can present evidence, including testimony and witnesses. And the standard of proof is higher than mere preponderance of the evidence; the court must be presented with clear and convincing evidence that respondents present a real threat to themselves or others.
Here are some actual cases where the criminal justice process failed to address the problem and GVRO’s were an important tool to take guns away from people who posed a risk of harm to themselves or others:
– School Threats: Respondent is a juvenile that discussed conducting a school shooting on social media. Criminal threats are difficult to prove without a victim. Upon further investigation of Respondent’s social media, SDPD discovered photos of him shooting an AK-47 rifle, numerous racist posts, and a photo of a dead bird covered in semen. Officers also spoke with prior school officials that stated that Respondent had killed small animals on campus. This case could not be filed in a criminal court because there is no penal code section that bans this type of behavior, believe it or not. SDPD filed a GVRO to prevent Respondent from accessing firearms and prevented what could have been another school tragedy.
– Domestic Violence: Respondent fought with the Victim’s boyfriend, grabbed a shotgun from the closet, and put it to her chin. Boyfriend wrestles the shotgun away, calls police, and reports that Respondent hit him. SDPD files a GVRO and Victim filed a Domestic Violence Restraining Order. Victim’s DVRO expires but SDPD obtains a Permanent GVRO preventing Respondent from accessing firearms.
– Elder/Dementia Related Dangers: Respondent and Victim are an elderly married couple and Respondent likely suffers from early onset dementia. Respondent believes his elderly wife is cheating with a neighbor. Respondent tells Victim that he is going to get a gun, shoot the neighbor, and then shoot Victim. Victim flees the residence and calls police. SDPD files a GVRO, seizes Respondent’s guns, and prevents him from accessing firearms.
-Reckless Use of a Firearm: Neighbor calls SDPD reporting Respondent is on back patio firing a handgun into neighbor’s back yard. Police respond to the residence, hear gunshots, and find Respondent shooting his handgun into neighbor’s back yard. Respondent’s blood alcohol level was .25 at the time of contact and Respondent stated he was shooting at rodents in his back yard. Court granted petition for a GVRO for reckless use of the firearm.
-Public Protection and Firearms Seizure: Respondent was arrested for shooting a City of San Diego water worker in front of Respondent’s house. Respondent consented to seizure of the gun used but refused consent to search and seize other weapons. Respondent owned his own home worth $700,000, more than enough to make bail. SDPD filed a GVRO and seized approximately 60 guns and 75,000 rounds of ammunition to make sure he does not have access to firearms or ammunition if he bailed out.
Key points: Even if a person is arrested and the gun that was involved in the crime is taken away, they can bail out with no or low bail, and they are not prohibited from owning or possessing other guns or buying new guns, even after they have been arraigned in the criminal case and gone before a judge. That is why in cases such as the drunken individual shooting at his neighbors, SDPD sought and obtained a temporary GVRO, which was quickly followed by a formal GVRO hearing (again, required within 21 days), during which the respondents due process rights were fully protected.
Here is the case of a former combat Marine with PTSD that called SDPD on himself:
– A former Marine suffering from PTSD visited an auto repair shop. He believed the employees were enemy agents and went to his car to retrieve a hand gun to eliminate them. In a lucid moment, he called the police on himself and waited for them to arrive.
In that case, no criminal charges were presented by SDPD to prosecutors. Nor was he declared mentally unfit by County Mental Health. A GVRO was an appropriate and effective temporary intervention, to allow this veteran time to address his PTSD, while protecting him and others from the threat of gun violence.
We have all read about the horrible violence in our schools and in our communities. We Republicans believe in the Second Amendment right to bear arms. But we must also do everything in our power to protect our children, our seniors, and our neighborhoods, and keep weapons out of the hands of those who pose a real threat to themselves and others.
That is why former-President Trump supported red-flag laws: “We must make sure that those judged to pose a grave risk to public safety do not have access to firearms, and that, if they do, those firearms can be taken through rapid due process.” That is why in Florida in 2018, a Republican legislature passed and a Republican governor signed legislation modeled after California’s GVRO law.
As a criminal prosecutor, I once held up a penny in front of a jury during closing argument and said, “This penny can’t buy anything. It’s practically worthless. But if you hold it up against your eye, it will block out the whole world.” I urged them see past one small issue raised by the defense, and focus on the overwhelming evidence of the defendant’s guilt.
Let’s not block out John’s overwhelming qualifications for Sheriff with this miniscule squabble over GVRO’s, which represents less than ONE PERCENT of what the Sheriff actually does. At the end of the day, we Republicans have the opportunity to endorse a tough, hard-nosed criminal prosecutor for County Sheriff. Isn’t that every Republican’s dream candidate?
John is a tough, smart, dedicated patriot! He is a strong, viable candidate. The Republican Party of San Diego County should vote to endorse John Hemmerling for Sheriff immediately!
Chief Deputy City Attorney for Prosecution Operations – Retired
Commander, USNR(Surface Warfare) – Retired
Gulf War Veteran (Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm)
Former Republican Party of San Diego County Communications Director
Endorsed Republican Congressional Candidate in 2004 against Bob Filner
Republican candidate John Hemmerling will be the most pro-Second Amendment San Diego County Sheriff in more than 30 years! Hemmerling supports Carry Concealed Weapon (CCW) licenses without any reservations. He believes the Sheriff’s current CCW process (overseen by Undersheriff Kelly Martinez) is too onerous. As Sheriff, Hemmerling will make the CCW application process simple and clear for everyone. He will ensure there is a quick turnaround and direct that the Sheriff’s Office “shall issue” concealed carry permits on constitutional self-defense grounds for all persons who pass background investigation.
John Hemmerling heads the Criminal Division in the San Diego City Attorney’s Office. It was my great honor to serve as his number two Criminal Prosecutor before I retired in 2019. He is a retired Marine Corps Reserve Colonel and a combat veteran of the Gulf and Iraq Wars. He served as top legal advisor for the Chief of Police in San Diego for many years. He was also a San Diego Police Officer for almost a decade–a beat cop in Mid-City, the toughest, most crime-ridden division in the city.
We Republicans must push back against this misguided attack against the best candidate for Sheriff in a generation—not just best on CCW’s, best period! John Hemmerling is both tough on crime and a leader in criminal justice reform. He is an uncompromising supporter of the Second Amendment right to bear arms who is dedicated to ending senseless gun violence. In short, John is just what we need for our new Sheriff: A tough, smart, dedicated patriot!
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Let’s begin by pointing out that nearly every example you cite of use of the GVRO illustrates the author’s assertion that the GVRO is unnecessary. There was ample PC for LE to take the firearm(s) in question absent GVRO. In fact, I assert that you made the author’s case, e.g. that GVRO is primarily designed to be abused. As a Republican, Mr. Hemmerling should be ashamed of himself instead of touting his role in its creation/use…not to mention the company he keeps surrounding GVRO.
As to his support for “shall issue” CCW, I’m searching his campaign material and cannot find anywhere that campaign plank. Can you direct us to it? Would he be willing to resign if he goes back on that promise?
Equally important to his views on the Second Amendment, which conservatives/Republicans hold sacrosanct, there are other issues equally important. What is his position on sanctuary status for illegals in the county? Will he support federal law LE, CBP and others, with access to SDSD detention facilities, etc.?
Of particular concern to conservatives/Republicans should also be his “found again” conservatism/Republicanism. I smell another Summer Stephan, who once in office, will determine that he can’t do his job as a Republican and become Independent (again)….or just be a RINO.
Finally, the SDSD beat is NOT the city beat. It is MUCH more diverse, more conservative, more pro-Second Amendment and MORE likely to be skeptical about endorsements from a former subordinate at the city DA’s office.
P.S. Want to end “senseless gun violence” (liberal code for crushing gun restrictions)…then ENFORCE the current laws. Perhaps you can tell us, being so close to the situation, his record on convictions and prison terms for the CRIMINALS he prosecuted for gun crimes.
USMC Provost Marshal (Retired) (20+ years ACTIVE service)
Desert Storm veteran (along with my wife, a retired Army nurse, 27+ years)
Life-long Republican (since ’74)
Former Republican elected official