Isla Vista shootings: Firearms checks sought after Santa Barbara rampage

A couple embrace before a memorial service for the victims and families of Friday's rampage at Harder Stadium on the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 in the Isla Vista area near Goleta, California.
A couple embrace before a memorial service for the victims and families of Friday's rampage at Harder Stadium on the campus of University of California, Santa Barbara on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 in the Isla Vista area near Goleta, California. Chris Carlson/AP

Law enforcement officers would be required to check state firearms records as part of routine welfare checks under legislation proposed Wednesday in the wake of the deadly rampage last month near the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office deputies have been criticized for not searching Elliot Rodger's apartment during a welfare check after his parents became concerned about his postings on YouTube. The 22-year-old community college student killed six university students and himself in Isla Vista a month later, authorities said.

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Rodger wrote in a manifesto that deputies would have found his weapons and foiled his plot if only they had done more checking.

The bill, SB505, would require officers to search the state's database of gun purchases when checking whether someone may be a danger to themselves or others.

The bill introduced by Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, is the latest of several proposed in response to the rampage.

Democratic Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner of Berkeley and Das Williams of Santa Barbara proposed creating a gun-violence restraining order that could be sought from a judge by law enforcement at the request of family members and friends.

Jackson said her bill would require law enforcement agencies to follow consistent standards on conducting deeper searches during welfare checks, a policy she said might have helped deter Rodger.

"It is possible that had they asked him about his firearms ... they could have inquired about why he had those weapons and made a determination whether he was a danger to himself or others," she said in an interview.

She also introduced SB580, which would provide more than $15 million to local law enforcement to enforce existing gun laws, including seizing guns from those who cannot legally own them.

SB505 was backed by the San Francisco-based Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence but criticized by Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.

Law enforcement officers already can search the state's gun owner database if they wish, and they can seek to have a dangerous individual committed for mental health treatment and prohibited from owning firearms, Paredes noted. What's needed, he said, is an education program for law enforcement, therapists and others in how to take advantage of current laws when necessary.

"The tools are there. They're just not being used," he said.

Yet lawmakers' first response to any such tragedy, Paredes said, is "to write another bill."

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