City Attorney Mara Elliott has become a national leader in the use of red flag laws. / Photo by Megan Wood

San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott is a pioneer in trying to reduce gun violence with tools already at her disposal – the gun violence restraining order, which allows a court to remove an individual’s firearms if they pose a threat to themselves or others.

San Diego has been using California’s law in its full effect, Alain Stephens reports in a story produced jointly by The Trace and Voice of San Diego.

The restraining orders, which are known colloquially as red flag laws, allow third parties to petition a judge to confiscate someone’s guns. They burst into the national consciousness following the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in 2018. Despite displaying clear warning signs of violence, the perpetrator was able to purchase and possess the AR-15 he used to kill 17 people.

For all their popularity and promise, however, GVROs remain relatively untested because many municipalities simply don’t use them very often. San Diego is an exception.

That’s mostly because of Elliott. “I have two boys and they were roughly the same ages as the victims who were murdered at Sandy Hook,” said Elliott. “There was this nagging feeling I needed to do more.”

Elliott’s office provided a range of examples where law enforcement officials deployed GVROs to remove guns from dangerous people. 

In 2018, for instance, Nathan Lee Brogan was arrested for shooting a city employee at his University Heights home. Afraid that Brogan would access weapons while out on bail, the city successfully filed for a gun violence restraining order. Police seized 56 firearms, explosives, and thousands of rounds of ammunition from his home.

“We can never prove that we saved lives, but we believe we have,” Elliott said.

North County: Carlsbad Tries to Help Commuters

The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce says businesses have had trouble recruiting and retaining talented workers because the commute is so difficult. 

To alleviate the pressure on roads and convince more people to ditch their cars, Carlsbad is now trying something new, Jesse Marx reports in this week’s roundup of all things North County.

Carlsbad has a new shuttle service to help get people out of their cars. But for a region slow to put more housing near jobs, it should also be seen as a Band-Aid on a larger wound.

Insurers Cancelled 14,000 Homeowners Policies Last Year

Last year, insurance companies cancelled 14,225 homeowners policies across San Diego, in part due to rising wildfire risk, according to new data from the state’s Department of Insurance.

The data gives perhaps the clearest picture yet of how insurance companies are reacting to rising wildfire risk. Statewide, insurers cancelled – the industry term is “non-renewed” – policies for nearly 170,000 homeowners.

While that is quite a lot of homes, there are over eight million homes in the state and homeowners themselves were far more likely to change insurers than insurers were to dump homeowners. About 730,000 homeowners switched insurance companies or decided not to renew their own policy in 2018, according to the department.  

Over the past four years, there’s been an upward tick in non-renewals but nothing major. In 2015, for instance, insurers decided not to renew 13,670 policies in San Diego.

However, the data does not capture the reaction by insurers following last November’s Camp Fire, the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the state’s history.

In a statement, California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said the data should be a wake-up call because trouble finding insurance can “create a domino effect for the local economy, affecting home sales and property taxes.” 

Home insurance policies generally last a year and are required for anyone with a mortgage.

In Other News

  • Charter school advocates told NBC San Diego that Inspire Charter Schools, which runs a network of home-school based charter schools, is engaged in a series of unethical practices. The critics from within the charter school movement include a membership organization that supports charter school networks that previously worked with Inspire.
  • The Union-Tribune is reporting that a “32-year-old mother from Chula Vista and her friend were fatally shot in Playas de Tijuana on Friday, and Tijuana police have arrested three municipal firefighters in connection with the double homicide.”
  • An anti-vaccine activist was cited by police for shoving a state lawmaker on Wednesday. Kenneth Austin Bennett livestreamed a physical altercation with state Sen. Richard Pan. Bennett then confirmed that he had pushed the lawmaker, the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee reported. In the video, Bennett said “I pushed you, I pushed you.” Bennett also said Pan should be hanged for treason, apparently because Pan wants to increase the number of children vaccinated against disease. In the past, Pan has cited reporting by Voice of San Diego to support his position that there are doctors who are too willing to dole out exemptions simply because a parent wants one and not based on legitimate medical considerations. Our Will Huntsberry found a single South Park doctor had written almost one-third of the medical vaccine exemptions in San Diego Unified
  • Local health officials are tracking and trying to contain measles cases, one of which may come from exposure to the virus at the Min Sok Chon Korean Restaurant. (KPBS)
  • NBC San Diego is following a lawsuit that accuses the website Girls Do Porn of an elaborate scheme to convince hundreds of women to appear in sex videos. “I wasn’t interested in doing porn. I knew how being in a porn could affect your future, your job opportunities, and how people believe you,” one woman testified this week. “But he kept saying that no one would ever find out it wouldn’t go online.” Instead, the videos were posted to some of the most popular websites in the world. After the filming, the woman said she was paid $2,000 less because she had bruises and pale skin. 

The Morning Report was written by Ry Rivard and edited by Andrew Keatts.

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