Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Congressman Henry Waxman to hold gun violence forum after Santa Monica shootings

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Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) convenes a forum on gun violence Monday in the wake of the shooting spree near Santa Monica College that left six people dead. The forum begins at 10 a.m. at Santa Monica City Hall and is entitled “Gun Violence, Mental Health and Community Recovery.” 

Waxman, who represents Santa Monica, has invited the head of the federal government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Pamela Hyde. The agency is part of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Other panelists include Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks, the chair of Santa Monica College Nancy Greenstein, and the head of the LA Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Suzanne Verge.

Here’s an excerpt from a memo, provided to Waxman in preparation for the forum, about some of the topics that may be discussed:

“Although people living with mental illnesses contribute very little to the overall rate of violence in the community, the perpetrators of numerous recent mass killings, including those in Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson, were young men suffering from serious mental illness or exhibiting behavior associated with serious mental illness. During a psychotic episode, people can experience hallucinations and delusions where they lose touch with reality. People living with serious mental illness are up to three times more likely to be violent than those without serious mental illness. The risk of violence increases when untreated psychosis is accompanied by substance abuse and symptoms of paranoia.”

Five weeks ago, John Zawahri, 23, killed his father and brother before going on a shooting spree with a semi-automatic rifle that left three more people dead. Police killed Zawahri in an exchange of gunfire on the college campus.

Police said he had spent time in a psychiatric hospital seven years earlier.

Waxman is the ranking member of a Congressional committee that previously explored the issues of violence and mental health following the Newtown shooting.

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