On their first day back in the Capitol since the killing Friday night of six college students near UC Santa Barbara, Democrats in the California Legislature on Tuesday said the state should do more to keep mentally ill people from obtaining guns.
Democratic Assembly members Das Williams of Santa Barbara and Nancy Skinner of Berkeley announced they will introduce a bill that would allow concerned family members or friends to notify authorities when a loved one is at risk of committing violence. That would allow law enforcement to investigate the person and potentially prevent him from buying firearms.
“The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing. Rather it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together,” Williams said in a statement.
In the state Senate, President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg said he plans to introduce a package of policy and budget proposals Wednesday that address mental health care, criminal justice and public safety, including more training for law enforcement.
Steinberg said that because mental health programs are determined by each county, California does not have an established protocol statewide spelling out how law enforcement officers should respond to calls for mental health checks. As legislators get into the final three weeks of crafting a state budget, Steinberg said he is looking to “increase resources for more extensive and intensive training of law enforcement around not only identification of mental health issues but also what to do.”
He said he was planning to make the proposals regardless of the Isla Vista killing Friday, in which 22-year-old Elliott Rodger is suspected of killing six people and injuring 13 others before killing himself. But the incident creates new urgency for the conversation, Steinberg said.
Steinberg said he believed Rodger fooled police into thinking he was well-adjusted when they came to check on him after his parents alerted them of a violent rant he had posted online. He asked if the incident might have been prevented if police had also checked on Rodger’s record of purchasing guns.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat, decried what she called a “culture of violence” in movies and video games and a society that has allowed mass shootings to continue. She was among the Democrats who called on the Legislature to take action to prevent more killing as the Senate eulogized the victims of Friday’s rampage and held a moment of silence in their honor.
Call Laurel Rosenhall, Bee Capitol Bureau, (916) 321-1083. Follow her on Twitter @LaurelRosenhall.