With parents of students killed in the Isla Vista shooting watching from the gallery, the California Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would allow authorities to take guns from people displaying violent tendencies or mental instability.
Assembly Bill 1014 was inspired by the May shooting at the college town near Santa Barbara, in which 22-year-old Elliot Rodger killed six students after posting rants on the Internet so violent that his parents asked authorities to check on him. The bill would allow family members of a person who is displaying signs of violence to petition a court for a restraining order that would allow law enforcement officials to take away the person’s guns.
“How often must we wring our hands and ask, ‘What if?’ or speculate what might have been done, or what we can do in the future to stop this kind of senseless tragedy?” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson as she presented the bill on the Senate floor.
“This is a measure that will add a layer of protection in a society that has become so prone to gun violence,” said Jackson, a Santa Barbara Democrat who is carrying the bill with Democratic Assembly members Das Williams and Nancy Skinner.
The measure is modeled after a similar restraining order process that is in place for domestic violence victims, Jackson said. A similar bill was enacted in Connecticut after that state experienced the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, she said. The California measure is supported by several law enforcement groups and opposed by gun rights advocates.
Craig DeLuz, director of communications for the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, said the measure infringes on multiple rights. “Under AB 1014, not only do you lose your right to keep and bear arms, but you also lose ... rights to due process and protection against unreasonable search and seizure,” he said in a statement.
Eight Republicans voted against AB 1014, arguing that California should do more to lock up mentally ill criminals, rather than taking away guns.
“There are those who use every tragedy to try to disarm law-abiding Californians,” said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.
Supporters of the measure countered that several high-profile killers in recent years – including the shooters in Isla Vista, Newtown, Conn., and Aurora, Colo. – did not have criminal records until they went on their killing sprees.
“There comes a time when the debate over guns goes from the rational to the ridiculous,” said Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “And the arguments against this bill, in my view, lean much closer to the latter.”
The 25-8 vote on the Senate floor sent the bill back to the Assembly for a final vote, and came shortly after gun control advocates and parents of two Isla Vista victims gathered outside the Capitol to urge support for AB 1014. It was an emotional news conference as father Bob Weissrecalled his daughter Veronica.
“She was killed in an act of senseless gun violence. And now I’ll never get to watch her graduate, dance with her at her wedding. I’ll never celebrate another Father’s Day with her. But what I can do is speak out so that other families do not suffer what my family has been through,” Weiss said.
Another parent, Richard Martinez, said “having a child killed by gun violence is the worst thing that can happen to you.”
Martinez, who lived in Sacramento in the 1980s when he worked for then-Assemblyman Charles Calderon, has been traveling the country to advocate for gun control since his son Christopher Michael-Martinez was killed in May.
“If California had a gun violence restraining order process in place when the Isla Vista shooter’s parents asked police for help with their son, the police could have acted. And things may be very different for us today,” Martinez said.
“Nothing can change that now, but we can take action to prevent future activities.”