SACRAMENTO (CBS SF) – Following the mass shooting at the VTA rail yard in San Jose and amid an increase in gun violence, Attorney General Rob Bonta joined prosecutors to remind Californians about the state’s red flag laws.

Since 2016, California has allowed law enforcement and families to petition a court for a temporary gun violence restraining order (GVRO), which allows for guns to be taken away from people deemed to be a danger to themselves and others. Last year, the state expanded the groups eligible to petition the court to include employers, coworkers and school employees.

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“Gun violence restraining orders are one critical tool that can help save lives, but they only work if we use them,” Bonta said in a statement Friday, which has been declared National Gun Violence Awareness Day. “So, if you believe a loved one, one of your students, or someone you work with poses a danger to themselves or others, please consider requesting a GVRO, and help us keep guns out of the wrong hands.”

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The process starts with a petition that has to be approved by a judge. Police can then proceed to temporarily remove firearms and ammunition. Within 21 days, there’s a court hearing where the judge can either rule to return the guns or extend the restraining order for up to five years.

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Data KPIX 5 obtained from the state Attorney General’s office shows use of the law varies a lot from county to county. In the Bay Area, Marin County issued the fewest GVROs in 2020, only five. Santa Clara County issued the most, 123. Statewide, San Diego County had the most by far, with 483.

Also on Friday, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin said his office is launching a new initiative to help the public seeking gun violence restraining orders. The DA’s office said it is offering assistance, as well as information about the orders in multiple languages.

“Our office is dedicated to developing new tools to combat the gun violence epidemic that is so prevalent throughout the United States. Assisting members of the public in obtaining gun violence restraining orders is a critical component in keeping our community safe,” Boudin said in a statement Friday.

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Anyone seeking assistance in filing an order in San Francisco is asked to contact the DA’s Office Victim Service Division at 628-652-4100.