SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature must do more to deter the type of violence that left six young people dead over the weekend near the University of California, Santa Barbara, Democratic lawmakers said Tuesday.
That includes establishing statewide protocols for all law enforcement officers who are called to check on mentally troubled people, they said.
Additional steps are also needed to identify young people with severe mental illness and get them needed services, said state senators, who spent 35 minutes eulogizing the students at the state Capitol and expressing frustration that such rampages continue despite previous efforts to end the problem.
Meanwhile, two Assembly members proposed legislation that would create a gun violence restraining order for use when family members and friends notify law enforcement about someone who is threatening violence.
Currently, therapists can tell law enforcement when they fear a client is at risk of committing a violent act. That can lead to the individual being prohibited by law enforcement from buying or owning firearms.
The proposed legislation would allow family members, friends and intimate partners to ask authorities to intervene. Law enforcement would then have the ability to investigate threats and ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession.
Under current law there is no prohibition on firearms ownership unless the suspect meets the standards for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment.
“There is a lot we can do to prevent these kinds of horrific events in the future,” said Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, who has spent much of his time in the Legislature addressing mental health concerns.
Among them, he said, more money could be provided in next year’s budget for detecting and treating mental illness.
The lawmakers’ comments came after 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.
Authorities say Rodger stabbed to death his three roommates then fatally shot two women outside a sorority house and another student who was working in a deli.
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. It was unclear if the information about the YouTube videos was passed along to the deputies.
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.
An upcoming budget sessions will provide a chance for lawmakers to consider whether first-responders have the training and direction they need to intervene in a way that might prevent future tragedies, Steinberg said.
He suggested that law enforcement should be required as standard procedure as part of such welfare visits to check whether the individual has purchased weapons. Rodger was able to legally purchase handguns under California law because he had no mental health commitments.
Steinberg said he was not second-guessing the deputies who checked on Rodger but suggested law enforcement should be required to do more than simply talk to the subject of their welfare check. Additional steps could include searching the individual’s surroundings and talking to roommates, neighbors and relatives.