Calif. Senate passes new gun bill inspired by massacre near UCSB

Family members and police could ask courts to take away a mentally disturbed person's guns under the bill

By Josh Richman and Jessica Calefati
The Oakland Tribune

SACRAMENTO — Family members and police could ask courts to take away a mentally disturbed person's guns under a bill inspired by May's UC Santa Barbara massacre and approved Wednesday by the state Senate.

AB1014 got at least 23 votes in the 40-member Senate, sending it to the Assembly for a vote later this week.

"Family members are often the first to spot the warning signs when someone is in crisis," said Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, adding that the bill she co-authored "provides an effective tool to get guns out of the hands of loved ones to avoid these tragedies."

Gun-rights advocates disagree. "No one wants mentally disturbed individuals who are an imminent danger to themselves and others to be allowed to commit some act of tragic proportions, but this bill unfortunately does not resolve this concern," said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.

Skinner joined with Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, and Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, to offer the bill after Elliot Rodger on May killed six and wounded 13 others in a rampage before committing suicide.

Rodger, 22, had undergone years of therapy, and his parents — concerned by his erratic behavior — had contacted police about three weeks before the killing spree. But responding officers saw no cause to detain him or search his apartment and didn't know he already had bought the guns he would use in some of the slayings.

Current law allows seizure of guns from potentially violent, mentally ill people only after a licensed therapist notifies police of a risk.

Family members can call police, but if no crime has been committed, or the person doesn't meet criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, police can't take away that person's firearms.

Modeled on domestic violence laws, AB1014 would let family members or police seek a court order that a mentally unstable person's guns be taken for safekeeping — and new gun purchases be prohibited — for one year if there's credible evidence of a risk of violence.

Connecticut, Indiana and Texas have similar laws.

But Paredes argued that the process described in the bill could give mentally unstable people days or even weeks before their guns are taken, while the current involuntary detention, evaluation and commitment process is more immediate.

Bill supporters rallying earlier Wednesday on the Capitol's steps included Richard Martinez and Bob Weiss whose children were killed by Rodger. They urged Gov. Jerry Brown to sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Losing a child to gun violence "is the worst thing that can happen to you," said Martinez, of Santa Maria. "It's not like this in other developed countries, and it doesn't have to be like this now."

Weiss, of Thousand Oaks, said his daughter's death means "I'll never get to watch her graduate or dance with her at her wedding. I'll never get to celebrate another Father's Day with her.

"What I can do is speak out so that other families do not suffer what my family has been through."

Copyright 2014 The Oakland Tribune

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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