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Santa Barbara rampage prompts lawmakers to act
Sacramento, Calif. (AP) -- California lawmakers on Tuesday proposed expanded restraining orders and new law enforcement procedures to deter the type of violent rampages that left six young people dead over the weekend near the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Two Assembly members proposed legislation that would create a gun violence restraining order that could be sought from a judge by law enforcement at the request of family members and friends.
"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 Democratic Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, who sponsored the measure with Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.
Currently, therapists can tell authorities when they fear a client is at risk of committing a violent act. However, there is no prohibition on firearms ownership unless someone has been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment.
Another proposal involves establishing statewide protocols for law enforcement officers who are called to check on mentally troubled people.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, suggested that authorities should be required as part of such welfare visits to check whether a person has purchased weapons instead of just talking to them.
Additional steps could include searching the individual's surroundings and talking to roommates, neighbors and relatives, he said.
"There is a lot we can do to prevent these kinds of horrific events in the future," said Steinberg, who has spent much of his time in the Legislature addressing mental health concerns.
State senators spent 35 minutes at the state Capitol eulogizing the students killed in the weekend violence and expressing frustration that such rampages continue despite previous efforts to end the problem.
Authorities said 22-year-old community college student Elliot Rodger killed six university students in the Isla Vista community on Friday after posting an Internet video describing his plans. The attacker died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.
The rampage came hours after Rodger emailed a lengthy manifesto to his parents, therapists and others, and a month after sheriff's deputies had visited him on a welfare check after his parents became concerned about his postings on YouTube.
The deputies found Rodger to be shy but polite and left without walking through the apartment or talking to anyone else. Rodger later wrote in his manifesto that deputies would have found his weapons and foiled his plot if only they had done a bit more checking.
Rodger was able to legally purchase handguns under California law because he had not been committed for treatment of any mental health issues.
Steinberg said more money could be provided in next year's state budget for detecting and treating mental illness.
Upcoming negotiations on the spending plan will give lawmakers a chance to consider whether first-responders have the training and direction needed to intervene in a way that might prevent future tragedies, Steinberg said.
Steinberg was joined by Democrats Jim Beall of San Jose, Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, and William Monning of Carmel in saying that more needs to be done to identify people with severe mental illness and get them the services they need.
Jackson and the other lawmakers said it is important to de-stigmatize mental illness and provide more ways to intervene and save the lives of young people with hopes and dreams.
"They are young people whose parents will never be able to dance at their weddings." Jackson said. "They are people who will never been able to find the cure for cancer or to brighten up the lives of others, because we as a nation have let this kind of behavior go on too long."