A shell casing flies out of the gun at biathlon event at the 2015 U.S. Police and Fire Championships. Photo by Chris Stone

Child welfare social workers in San Diego County will receive specialized training regarding firearm safety regulations in an effort to reduce the potential for gun violence among local families, it was announced Monday.

The San Diego City Attorney’s Office will conduct the training available to all 800 child welfare service staff and cover gun violence restraining orders, San Diego’s Safe Storage of Firearms law, and other related state laws and measures.

The City Attorney’s Office says the gun violence restraining order program — court orders that remove guns from people who are threats to themselves or others — has removed more than 600 firearms from dangerous users since its inception in 2017.

The Safe Storage of Firearms Ordinance — requiring that San Diegans keep firearms in locked containers, or be disabled by a trigger lock, if they are not in the immediate control of authorized users — took effect last year, and the City Attorney’s Office says the law has been effective in preventing suicides and unintentional injuries/deaths among children.

Officials say the training is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many residents are experiencing stress related to quarantining. Gun sales also surged during the first three months of the pandemic, according to the City Attorney’s Office, which said 110,000 Californians bought new guns between March and July.

“As pandemic-related stressors mount and children attend school at homes where parents are distracted by other responsibilities, protecting families from gun violence has never been more important,” said San Diego City Attorney Mara Elliott. “Our goal is to prevent unthinkable tragedies and ensure the safety of the social workers who continue to investigate the well-being of San Diego’s children during the pandemic.”

The trainings are slated to take place virtually Oct. 27, Nov. 10 and Dec. 1.

The initiative to provide the training comes through a partnership between Elliott’s office, San Diego County Supervisor Nathan Fletcher, San Diego County Child Welfare Services and Service Employees International Union Local 221.

Fletcher, who also co-chairs the county’s Child and Family Strengthening Advisory Board, said: “Our social workers do a great job of showing care and compassion for families daily, and with this new training they will be more knowledgeable about preventing gun violence in homes throughout San Diego County.”

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