In the wake of Elliot Rodger’s gruesome killing spree on Friday in Isla Vista, California, state lawmakers on Tuesday said they would propose legislation to create a system of gun-violence restraining orders to prevent future massacres.
The bill would allow concerned family members or friends to notify law enforcement if they’re concerned about a loved one’s intent to commit violence. Law enforcement would then investigate the threat of violence and could ask a judge to approve a restraining order on that person’s ability to purchase firearms or to keep in their possession already-owned guns.
“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs but almost nothing can now be done to get back their guns or prevent them from buying more," said California state Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, in a release. She introduced the bill with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.
Under current law, a therapist can notify law enforcement of a client’s intent to commit violence, and law enforcement can investigate that individual, but a person can only be banned from purchasing firearms if that person has been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
“Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies,” said Skinner. Roger's mother had contacted authorities at least twice prior to the killings.
And California Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg told the Senate on Tuesday that he intended to introduce a package of policy and budget proposals on Wednesday to address mental health care, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Steinberg said the state should create protocols for law enforcement to follow when they’re called to check on a person’s mental health, requiring officers to look into that person’s firearm purchasing history and talk to family members and neighbors.
In April, just weeks before Rodger stabbed to death three men at his apartment and shot dead three more as he drove around the beachside college town of Isla Vista, Rodger’s mother became concerned when she saw a YouTube video he posted and reportedly called the police.
But Rodger staved them off when they visited his apartment and asked him if he’d had suicidal thoughts, telling them “it was all a big misunderstanding, that his relative and this other person had taken things the wrong way and he really wasn’t going to hurt anybody or himself,” according to Santa Barbara county sheriff Bill Brown.
But had they searched his room, as Rodger wrote in the 141-page manifesto that he emailed to a handful of people just before his violent rampage, the police officers might have found his three semi-automatic guns and 400 rounds of ammunition — all legally purchased — “along with my writings about what I plan to do with them.”
Richard Martinez — the father of Christopher Michaels-Martinez, who died in the attack — urged students at a memorial service on the University of California, Santa Barbara campus to fight for tougher gun laws and blamed the shooting on politicians’ inaction, according to the Associated Press.
"They have done nothing, and that's why Chris died," Martinez said. "It's almost become a normal thing for us to accept this."
In January, the Obama administration strengthened the federal law banning those who have been sentenced to involuntary mental health treatment from purchasing firearms, clarifying that both inpatient and outpatient treatment would warrant a ban on gun ownership.
President Barack Obama proposed sweeping gun control measures early in 2013 following the mass shooting of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, but legislation to strengthen federal background checks were rejected by Congress.