WASHINGTON -- Nearly two weeks after a mass shooting left seven people dead in Isla Vista, a trio of California’s Democratic lawmakers introduced federal legislation intended to keep guns out of the hands of people who poses a risk of committing violence.
The Pause for Safety Act, sponsored by Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein with Rep. Lois Capps of Santa Barbara, would enable family members and others to seek a court order to stop a dangerous person from purchasing or possessing a firearm.
“We must do everything in our power to keep firearms out of the hands of those who pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or to others,” Feinstein said.
On May 23, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six people, then himself, in a rampage near the University of California at Santa Barbara. Rodger was undergoing treatment for mental illness and family members worried he might hurt himself or others. But law enforcement officers didn’t see any red flags when they interviewed him before the shooting spree.
“It is haunting to me that the family of the gunman was desperate to prevent an act of violence and alerted police, but they were still unable to stop this tragedy,” Boxer said.
Feinstein knows the issue personally. In November 1978, former San Francisco Supervisor Dan White shot and killed both Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk at City Hall. Feinstein, then president of the Board of Supervisors, found her colleagues’ bodies, and it fell to her to deliver the shocking news to the media.
Though a series of mass shootings in recent years in Virginia, Arizona, Colorado and Connecticut drove a new push for stricter gun laws, gun-rights groups have pushed back. A bipartisan bill to broaden background checks for gun purchases failed in the U.S. Senate last year, as did an effort by Feinstein to renew a ban on military-style assault rifles.
The latest bill comes as members of Congress are preoccupied with midterm elections. The National Rifle Association has typically opposed any legislation, state or federal, that seeks to limit firearms possession, and has funded efforts to defeat lawmakers who support such measures.
“Unfortunately this is another tragedy that was not prevented by gun control and there’s not ... another gun control law that could have been passed that would have prevented this awful situation from happening,” NRA spokesman Chris Cox said on a radio program this week, referring to the Isla Vista shootings.