On Tuesday, California Assembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, announced legislation to help prevent mass killings such as last Friday’s tragic Isla Vista rampage near UC Santa Barbara that claimed the lives of six students.
The proposed legislation would create a gun violence restraining order, establishing a system where concerned family members, intimate partners or friends can notify law enforcement of someone who is demonstrating a propensity to commit violence toward themselves or others.
“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," Skinner said. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies."
Under current law, therapists can notify law enforcement that their client is at risk of committing a violent act allowing authorities to investigate the individual. Law enforcement can prevent the person from buying or owning firearms.
“The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing," Williams said. "Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together.”
The proposed legislation would grant this authority to concerned family members, friends and intimate partners, creating a mechanism to intervene and potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove the firearms already in possession. Law enforcement would have the ability to investigate threats and ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession.
In most cases involving an individual in crisis there is no mechanism to limit firearm access while the individual is seeking or receiving needed help (e.g., mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, anger management).
Family members may call law enforcement to intervene. However, as evidenced by law enforcement's response to the mother's call regarding her concerns about the shooter in the Santa Barbara incident, if no crime has been committed, or the individual does not meet the criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there is essentially nothing that can be done to prevent that individual from purchasing firearms or to temporarily remove firearms from their possession during the crisis.
"After this tragedy in Isla Vista, it's important that we recommit to doing all we can to ensuring that incidents like this never happen again," state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson said. "This bill is a critically important place to start."
Jackson will be joining Williams and Skinner as a principal co-author of Assembly Bill 1014.
— Jeannette Sanchez-Palacios is the district director for Assemblyman Das Williams.