Santa Clara Co. officials consider task team for court-ordered gun confiscation

Santa Clara County officials say gun crimes used by suspects in domestic violence cases, or who’ve been slapped with restraining orders, have steadily increased the past 10 years. 

The district attorney's office is partnering with the board of supervisors to create a new team of law enforcement members to combat these kinds of crimes.

On Jun. 23, 2019, in San Jose, a distraught family member shot and killed four members of his own family, before taking his own life. Despite a threat of violence days earlier, the suspect had a gun which turned a domestic dispute into a massacre.

"I don't see how someone could get so angry to be able to take a life? That's a precious life that God gives," neighbor Alexandria Cortez said at the time of the crime.

Monday, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors President Cindy Chavez along with representatives from the DA’s office and the San Jose Police Department, announced the possible formation of a team to intervene before shots are fired.

“Our policies in Santa Clara County, and counties across the state, can’t work if there’s no one enforcing them,” said Chavez.

Too often officials say, domestic disputes turn deadly because police and deputies don’t have a legally coordinated way or staffing to make sure suspects of domestic violence or those slapped with restraining orders don’t have weapons.

“Those categories of individuals that have been unfortunately a dangerous gap over the last several years require a dedication of focus so that we can run all of these orders and cross-reference their histories and dangerousness,” said Deputy District Attorney Marias Mckeown who's in charge of the crime strategies unit.

The DA’s office and supervisors will fund a county gun team, tasked with making sure those who are suspected of domestic violence don’t hold onto their guns. The team would consist of three analysts, a prosecutor, and one investigator. The DA’s office will fund two positions, the board of supervisors, the other two.

“We know that any gun that’s out there in the hands of someone illegally has the potential for violence,” said Deputy Chief of the San Jose Police Department Heather Randol. 

The board’s expected vote Tuesday would first create a framework allowing the team to function, and then a financial structure for its members. A pilot program in 2018 produced favorable results according to Chavez, leading her to push for roughly $750,000 annual for the proposed gun team.

“With not a lot of money, we’re gonna be able to make Santa Clara County dramatically safer,” said Chavez.

These officials hope that having law officials from the DA’s office and various police departments across the county working together in this effort will reduce the amount of gun violence.