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New CA law limits police use of firearms in confrontations

Photo credit:
Creative Commons (Stock Photo) - Chris Yarzab

Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on Monday a bill (AB392) that limits how police use deadly force when it comes to their handling of suspects. This is an effort to reduce the number of deaths caused by police shootings according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

“We are doing something today that stretches the boundary of possibility and sends a message to people all across this country that they can do more and they can do better to meet this moment,” said Newsom standing among families who have been affected by police shooting deaths. 

The law, co-written by Democratic Assemblywoman Shirley Weber of San Diego now states that police may only use "lethal force only when necessary to defend against an imminent threat of death or serious injury to officers or bystanders."

A definition of "necessary" was dropped by lawmakers that originally said, "officers could use deadly force only when there is 'no reasonable alternative.'"

Public outcry over the 2018 fatal police shooting of unarmed Stephon Clark, a suspected vandal, may have spurred the bill, but objections by law enforcement and some supporters stalled its advancement until changes were made to it this past May. 

One of the changes was the requirement for officers to de-escalate confrontations first. Police argued that doing that would lead to, "endless second-guessing of what often are split-second life-and-death decisions."

Edits to the bill were proposed and negotiated by the American Civil Liberties Union

Assemblywoman Weber said the law “changes the culture of policing in California.”

AB392 is linked to a similar Senate bill which requires officers to de-escalate confrontations, other ways to stop gunfire and learn how to negotiate with people who suffer from mental illness or other issues.