Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO)?

A common thread in many high profile shootings are the family members of the shooters who saw their loved ones engage in dangerous behaviors and grew concerned about their risk of harming themselves or others – even before any violence occurred. In fact, it is common for family to be the first to know when loved ones are in crisis in many incidents of interpersonal violence and suicide that take place across this country every day. The Gun Violence Restraining Order (GVRO), also known as the Firearms Restraining Order (FRO), offers family members, household members, and law enforcement a tool for temporarily removing a firearm from these loved ones in crisis.

A GVRO is a civil court order, signed by a judge, that temporarily prohibits someone (the “respondent”) who is in crisis from possessing or purchasing any guns or ammunition. It is used to protect someone who is in crisis from hurting themselves or others.

By intervening to temporarily remove guns already possessed and prohibit new gun purchases, the GVRO creates safer circumstances for the individual to seek treatment (e.g. for substance abuse, mental disorders) or engage other resources to address the underlying causes of the dangerous behaviors. The GVRO is based on the long-standing infrastructure and procedure of Domestic Violence Restraining Orders (in place in all 50 states) and involves a court hearing and clearly defined due process protections. Individuals have been able to apply for GVROs in California since January 1, 2016.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

What is a Firearms Restraining Order (FRO)?

A Firearms Restraining Order is the same as a Gun Violence Restraining Order. They are known by different names  in different places, but they are the same. In California, both terms are used when referencing the tool, but the judicial system uses the term Firearms Restraining Order.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

Why is a GVRO needed?

If someone has not been convicted of a prohibitory crime, or they do not meet the criteria for an involuntary hospitalization civil commitment for mental health treatment (5150), aside from the GVRO, there is no other risk-based mechanism to temporarily suspend firearm access on an individualized basis when a person is suspected of being dangerous to themselves or others. A GVRO offers family members, household members, and law enforcement a judicial pathway for temporarily removing firearms and prohibiting future gun purchases. A GVRO offers a limited term opportunity to access help and care that could stop a violent situation from occurring.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

How does a GVRO help people in crisis stay safe?

The GVRO helps family members, household members, and law enforcement protect a loved one who is in crisis by temporarily separating him or her from guns. It requires temporary removal of guns and ammunition from the subject of the petition and prohibits new purchases for the duration of the Order. This creates safer circumstances for the individual to seek treatment or other resources to address the underlying causes of their dangerous behaviors.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

How does a GVRO work?

A family member, household member, or law enforcement officer would request that a civil court in their jurisdiction issue a Firearms Restraining Order based on the facts they present through a formal, written application and at a hearing before a judge. This does not involve a criminal complaint, though seeking a GVRO does not preclude the petitioner from seeking any other available legal remedy. Specifically, the court process would include:

An initial hearing in which a judge considers the information presented by the petitioner and assesses whether the person is at risk of harming himself or herself or someone else. If issued, a temporary GVRO will be in effect for 21 days. If the subject of the petition does not own or possess firearms, he or she is temporarily prohibited from purchasing a firearm. If the subject of the petition does own or possess firearms, he or she must be relinquished for the duration of the order and the subject of the petition is also prohibited from purchasing new firearms or ammunition.

Within 21 days and before the emergency GVRO expires, a subsequent hearing will take place in which both the petitioner and the subject of the petition have an opportunity to be heard and to address the charge of dangerousness. If after the hearing the court determines the subject of the petition is dangerous, the order prohibiting the purchase and possession of firearms will be extended for up to one year.

Firearms surrendered under the GVRO may be held by law enforcement, sold to a federally licensed firearm dealer, or held by a federally licensed firearm dealer. If at the expiration of the order the subject of the petition is not otherwise prohibited from purchasing a gun and a new GVRO has not been issued, all firearms will be returned.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

What can a GVRO do and cannot do?

A GVRO is a court order that:

Orders the subject of the petition to surrender all firearms and ammunition they have in their possession; and

Prohibits the subject of the petition from new firearm and ammunition purchases for the duration of the order.

A GVRO only places restrictions on possession of firearms and ammunition for a defined period of time. It does NOT:

Require the surrender of other weapons, such as knives; or

Protect the petitioner in other ways, such as barring contact or keeping the person from coming near the petitioner. For personal protection from a family member, you should proceed under the Domestic Violence Protection Act. See Form DV-500-INFO (Can a Domestic Violence Restraining Order Help Me?) for more information.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

Who can petition for a Gun Violence Restraining Order?

You can ask (petition) the court for a Gun Violence Restraining Order if you are an immediate family member or household member of the subject of the petition. Immediate family members and household members include:

  • The respondent’s spouse (by marriage or not) or domestic partner;
  • The respondent’s parents, children, siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren and their spouses, including any stepparent or step-grandparent;
  • The respondent’s spouse’s parents, children (respondent’s stepchildren), siblings, grandparents, and grandchildren; and
  • Any other person who regularly resides in the household, or who, within the last six months, regularly resided in the household.

In addition, law enforcement officers may petition for GVROs. If you do not have the necessary relationship, inform law enforcement, as an officer may investigate and file a petition if s/he finds that grounds exist.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

There are three types of GVROs that may be issued in California:

Temporary Emergency GVRO: A Temporary Emergency GVRO is a type of order that only law enforcement officers can request. This is available to officers when they encounter a person who poses “immediate and present danger of injury to self or others as a result of having a gun” and the requesting officer concludes that an emergency order is needed to effectively intervene. This Emergency order is issued verbally by a judge (whom the officers may call 24 hours a day, seven days a week), is effective immediately, and expires after 21 days. The issuance of a Temporary Emergency Order does not preclude a law enforcement officer or family member from petitioning for an ex parte GVRO. In addition, a Temporary Emergency GVRO may be issued over the phone if necessary, but should normally be sought by written petition.

Ex Parte Gun Violence Restraining Order: Both law enforcement officers and immediate family members of the subject of the petition may petition for an ex parte Gun Violence Restraining Order. The petitioner fills out paperwork that explains to a judge why the person may be dangerous. The judge may issue an ex parte GVRO when there is a “substantial likelihood” that the respondent “poses a significant danger of harm to self or others in the near future by having access to a firearm.” Ex parte GVRO petitions are typically decided on the same day they are filed and may be in effect for up to 21 days.

Gun Violence Restraining Orders (1-year): Temporary orders may be extended into a Gun Violence Restraining Order after a notice and court hearing in which the petitioner is able to demonstrate “clear and convincing evidence that the respondent poses a significant danger of injury to self or others.” GVROs may be issued for up to 1 year.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

How do courts assess “dangerousness”?

Judges make the decision whether or not to issue a GVRO. By law, they must consider several indicators of dangerousness:

  • Recent threat or act of violence directed toward self or others
  • Violation of a protective order currently in effect or unexpired
  • Conviction for any crime that prohibits purchase and possession of firearms under California law
  • Patterns of violence or threatened violence within the prior 12 months directed toward self or others

In making GVRO decisions, judges may also consider additional evidence of an increased risk for violence, including, but not limited to:

  • Reckless firearm behaviors
  • History of threatened, attempted, or actual physical force against another person
  • Prior arrest for a felony offense
  • History of violation of a protective order
  • Records demonstrating abuse of alcohol or controlled substances
  • Whether the subject of the petition has acquired guns, ammunition, or other deadly weapons within the prior 6 months

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

What are the effects of a Gun Violence Restraining Order on the restrained person?

GVROs place temporary limits on access to firearms and ammunition to keep people safe when they are in crisis.

The subject of the petition will be required to surrender any firearms or ammunition they currently possess for the duration of the order. If he or she does not willingly surrender these items within 24 hours of the order, a search warrant may be issued and they will be removed by law enforcement.

The subject of the petition will be temporarily barred from purchasing firearms or ammunition while the order is in effect.

If the subject of the petition violates the restraining order, call the police. He or she can be arrested and charged with a crime.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.

How do I file a GVRO petition?

You may file a petition for an  ex parte GVRO by following these general steps:

File court form GV-110 asking for the Temporary Gun Violence Restraining Order. This must be done in person in court and cannot be done online. The form can be downloaded and filled out beforehand. There may be a filing fee to file your petition. If you cannot afford this fee, ask the clerk how to apply for a fee waiver (form FW-001). Find contact information for your local court (California only) here.

When bringing a petition for any type of GVRO, the petitioner must describe in the petition the number, types, and locations of any firearms and ammunition presently believed to be in the subject of the petition’s possession or control.

The judge will decide whether or not to make the order, typically within 24 hours.

If the judge grants the ex parte order, he or she will issue an order that lasts 21 days (or until an earlier court date).

The subject of the petition (respondent) must be “served” in person with a copy of all gun violence restraining order papers. The petitioner must engage a process server or request law enforcement to serve the order to the respondent. Petitioners can contact their local clerk about process server information (GV-200-INFO).

The subject of the petition has the right to file a response to the GVRO prior to their court date if they disagree with the order, using form GV-120, Response to Petition for Gun Violence Restraining Order.

Every court in California has a self-help center which may be able to assist you, click here for more info: http://www.courts.ca.gov/selfhelp-selfhelpcenters.htm

The petitioner must be present at the court hearing. If the petitioner is not present, no order will be issued. The respondent may not be present at the hearing. They are requested to attend the hearing but are not required to do so. At the hearing, the judge will hear evidence on the subject of the petition’s dangerousness to decide to continue or cancel the temporary order. If the judge decides to extend the temporary order, the Gun Violence Restraining Order will last for 1 year.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

Can the subject of the petition contest a GVRO?

If the subject of the petition disagrees with the order, he or she may file a response to the court prior to their court date using form GV-120, Response to Petition for Firearms Restraining Order. The subject of the petition also must attend their court date.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

How does the subject of the petition turn in firearms and ammunition that they possess?

If demanded when a law enforcement officer serves a court order requiring surrender, the subject of the petition should give all firearms (including handguns, rifles, shotguns, and assault weapons) and ammunition to the law enforcement officer immediately. Otherwise, within 24 hours:

  • Turn them into the local law enforcement agency (call them ahead of time to ask about their procedures and bring a copy of the order with you. When transporting, go directly to the law enforcement agency, do not bring your firearms elsewhere.); or
  • Sell them to a licensed firearms dealer; or
  • Store them with a licensed firearms dealer.

Keeping receipts is important. The subject of the petition is required to submit form GV-800, Proof of Firearms Turned In, Sold, or Stored, within 48 hours, to include receipts as proof.

If firearms are not willingly surrendered, a search warrant may be issued and the firearms subsequently removed.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly. 

How does a person get their firearms back?

A GVRO is a time-limited order. At the end of the order, if an extension is not issued, the subject of the petition must take action by asking the court to prompt firearms restoration. A background check is run and if the subject of the petition does not have another prohibition from purchasing or possessing guns, then all firearms and ammunition that were relinquished or removed will be returned to him or her, and his or her ability to purchase new firearms and ammunition will be restored.

Disclaimer: This website does not provide legal advice and information is intended for general informational purposes only. If you need legal advice, please contact an attorney directly.