Browse common terms and their definitions

1799 Hold

An emergency 24-hour psychiatric hold that can be placed by physicians and other licensed staff in emergency settings when a patient cannot be safely released from the hospital because, in the treating clinician’s opinion, the patient, due to mental illness, poses a danger to self, danger to others, or is gravely disabled (i.e., unable to care for their own basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter). The number 1799 comes from the section of California’s Health and Safety Code in which this policy is found.

5150 Hold

An emergency 72-hour psychiatric hold that can be placed by a qualified law enforcement officer or clinician when someone, due to mental illness, poses a danger to themselves or others or is gravely disabled (i.e., unable to care for their own basic personal needs for food, clothing, or shelter). The number 5150 comes from the section of California’s Welfare and Institutions Code in which this policy is found.

AB 521

The California Legislature’s Assembly Bill 521 (AB 521), signed in October 2019, that allocated state funds for BulletPoints, a project to develop clinical tools for firearm injury prevention. BulletPoints is a project of the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center (UCFC).


The impact of a health problem on a given population, most often measured by the number or count of persons affected by that health condition. Burden differs from rate because it represents the absolute number of cases, whereas rate is the proportion of cases per population unit (usually 100,000 people). For example, California has the second highest burden of firearm deaths due to its large population but one of the lowest firearm death rates (7th lowest) compared with other states.

Case-fatality rate

The proportion of persons with the disease or health condition who die from it.


An individual who has died, for example “a suicide decedent.”

Domestic violence restraining order (DVRO)

A type of civil protective order that helps protect people from abuse or threats of abuse from someone they have a close relationship with. DVROs prohibit the person subject to them (the “respondent”) from owning or purchasing firearms and ammunition while they are in effect. In other states, DVROs may be called domestic violence protection orders (DVPOs).


The study of the distribution (frequency, pattern) and determinants (causes, risk factors) of health conditions in specified populations, and the application of this study to the control of health problems. Epidemiology is a cornerstone of public health that informs evidence-based practice and policy decisions.

Federal firearms licensee (FFL)

An individual or organization who is licensed to engage in the business of manufacturing, importing and/or dealing in firearms, including gun shop owners, pawn shop dealers, and retailers. Federal law requires firearms dealers to obtain a Federal Firearms License (also referred to as an FFL) from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF). In California, people who regularly sell, transfer, or loan firearms must also generally be licensed by the state Department of Justice (DOJ).

Firearm prohibitions

State and federal laws that forbid people who meet certain criteria, such as being convicted of certain crimes or subject to civil protective orders, from acquiring and possessing firearms. In California, prohibitions apply to both firearms and ammunition. A person subject to a firearm prohibition is sometimes called a prohibited person.

Firearm safety

A wide range of safe firearm handling and storage practices, including wearing eye and ear protection when shooting, storing guns unloaded and separate from ammunition when not in use, and always keeping the gun pointed in a safe direction.

Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC)

A certificate earned by taking and passing a written test on firearm safety and laws, generally at participating firearms dealerships and private firearms training facilities. Effective January 1, 2015, California state law requires all persons purchasing or acquiring a firearm (unless exempted) to obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate (FSC) and present the FSC to a licensed firearms dealer prior to purchasing or receiving the firearm. An FSC is valid for five years from the date of issuance.

Gun violence restraining order (GVRO)

A type of civil protective order that temporarily prevents a person from accessing firearms and ammunition when they pose a threat to themselves or others. Other states have similar laws, sometimes called extreme risk protection orders (ERPOs) or, more colloquially, “red flag” laws.


The occurrence of new cases of a health condition (e.g., disease, injury) in a population over a specified period of time. Incidence proportion, also called risk, is the proportion of an initially disease-free population that develops disease, becomes injured, or dies during a period of time. Incidence is limited to new cases only, whereas prevalence includes both new and pre-existing cases.

Intimate partner violence (IPV)

Violence by a current or former intimate partner (i.e., spouse, boyfriend/girlfriend, dating partner, or ongoing sexual partner), including physical violence, sexual violence, stalking, and psychological aggression (including coercive tactics). It is sometimes called domestic violence (DV).

Lethal means safety counseling

A clinical practice that involves determining if someone at risk of self-harm has access to lethal means, such as firearms or medications, and collaborating with the person at risk and their loved ones to reduce access to lethal means for the duration of the heightened-risk period. Clinicians should be prepared to discuss reducing access to lethal means when clinically indicated.

Lifetime risk

The probability that a person will develop or die from a health condition over the course of their lifetime. An individual’s lifetime risk may be higher or lower depending on their unique risk and protective factors.

Mass shooting

A term with various definitions, ranging from more inclusive (e.g., incidents in which four or more people are shot or killed, regardless of the location and circumstances of the crime) to less inclusive (e.g., public shootings in which three or more are killed, excluding crimes related armed robbery or gang activity).

National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS)

A national namecheck system operated by the FBI and used by federal firearm licensees (FFLs) to verify that a prospective firearm purchaser doesn’t have a prohibiting criminal record and isn’t otherwise ineligible to purchase or possess a firearm. Federal law provides states with the option of serving as a state “point of contact” and conducting their own background checks using state as well as federal records and databases, or having the checks performed by the FBI using only the federal NICS database. In California, the Department of Justice (DOJ) serves as the point of contact for background checks on individuals purchasing, or being loaned or transferred, a firearm, including handguns and long guns.


The person who requests a civil protective order, such as a GVRO or DVRO.


The proportion of the population that has a health condition at a point in time or over a specified period of time. Prevalence includes all cases, both new and pre-existing, in the population at the specified time. Prevalence differs from incidence because incidence is limited to new cases only.


A term widely used to refer to the proportion of a health condition per population unit (usually 100,000 people); though technically, a rate describes how quickly a disease or health condition occurs in a population (expressed per unit of time). Rate differs from burden, which is the absolute number of cases of a health condition, not a proportion.


The person subject to a civil protective order, such as a GVRO or DVRO.

Risk-based counseling

An approach to firearm injury prevention in which clinicians counsel patients on firearm access only when risk factor(s) are present. Experts recommend risk-based counseling instead of a universal approach, in which clinicians ask all patients, regardless of risk status, about their access to firearms. In some patient populations, however, all members are at risk. For example, children are universally at risk of unintentional injury when there’s a firearm in the home so universal counseling is recommended in pediatric settings.

Waiting period

A certain number of days that must elapse between a firearm purchase and when the purchaser can actually take possession of the firearm. California has a mandatory 10-day waiting period for all firearm purchases, during which time a background check is conducted to ensure the purchaser is not prohibited from lawfully possessing firearms. If the purchaser passes the background check (i.e., is not found to be a prohibited person), after the 10-day waiting period ends, they can take possession of their firearm from the retailer.

© 2020 BulletPoints Project. All rights reserved.

Have you taken our survey yet?

In order to help us make this website as useful as possible, we'd like your feedback!
Take the survey