California State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino headshot
California State Sen. Anthony J. Portantino

California assisted living communities that allow guns on their premises will be required to centrally store the guns, unloaded, in a locked gun safe under a bill signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“Children are far too often put in jeopardy when they are in homes that practice unsafe gun storage, and our growing senior population is generating gun safety issues as it transitions into group care,” said state Sen. Anthony J. Portantino (D), who wrote the legislation. “These situations have created an urgent situation where all aspects of residential storage need stronger and contemporary regulations. Both younger and older residents need to be protected from inadvertent gun violence, and I am very pleased that this needed and commonsense effort is now law.”

Under the law, which the governor signed Oct. 12, ammunition will need to be locked up in a separate central location.

“SB 172 did not require a provider to allow firearms on the premises, so CALA remained neutral on the bill,” Sally Michael, president and CEO of the California Assisted Living Association, an Argentum state partner, told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Our members prefer to prohibit firearms on the premises altogether. Otherwise, safe storage is always important,” she added.

Although the law does not require residential care facilities for the elderly to accept, store or retain firearms or ammunition, those who do and violate the law will be committing a crime, Portantino said. The state Department of Social Services now will work on the specific regulations.

“We appreciate Sen. Portantino’s work in this area. Ensuring the safety of the facility’s staff, residents and visitors is always a priority,” LeadingAge California Chief Operating Officer Eric Dowdy told McKnight’s Senior Living. “Thankfully, we do not have a large problem with gun violence by resident-owned firearms, but the precautions that were negotiated in SB 172 are prudent.”

Improper storage of firearms poses a “serious risk” to approximately 200,000 residents of California’s 7,300 assisted living facilities, according to the state senator.

An apparent murder-suicide at a California senior living community in August, in which a husband and wife died, “highlighted the need to enact sensible rules regarding our senior population and the facilities they enter after leaving their homes for retirement and care,” Portantino said. The wife lived at the community, and the husband was visiting, and both had “dementia-related mental issues,” a sheriff’s office spokeswoman said, according to a media report.

“Having unsecured firearms in proximity to dementia residents is a dangerous risk,” the senator said. “With 70% of assisted living residents having some level of dementia, firearms pose significant risk for everyone in the assisted living setting, so this bill proactively prevents a tragedy.”

The bill was supported by Consumer Advocates for RCFE Reform, Elder Law and Advocacy, and other organizations, Portantino said.