The names and faces and places are different, but the story is always heartbreakingly the same.
This time it was Ian David Long, a 28-year-old former U.S. Marine who might have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, who walked into the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks on Wednesday night and opened fire on a crowd of country music fans, many of them college kids.
Armed with smoke bombs and a .45-caliber Glock handgun that he apparently purchased legally, but modified with an extended magazine, authorities say he killed 12 people, including Ventura County sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus who had rushed in to help.
Long then turned the gun on himself.
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“It doesn’t matter how safe your community is, it doesn’t matter how low your crime rate is — there are people who just don’t think properly everywhere, I don’t care where you are, and they commit horrific acts like this. There’s no way to process,” Sheriff Geoff Dean told The Los Angeles Times. “There’s no way to make sense out of the senseless.”
In the days ahead, many questions will be asked and answered, particularly about Long’s mental health.
Back in April, Ventura County sheriff’s deputies responded to his home for a complaint of disturbing the peace, but the decision was made not to take him into custody, according to news reports. It’s unclear exactly why. He was known to neighbors to be both standoffish and volatile.
In times like these, it’s a cold comfort that California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country.
In recent years, legislators in Sacramento have raised the legal age from 18 to 21 to buy a firearm, banned sales of assault rifles with so-called “bullet buttons,” cracked down on sales of ammunition and mandated a criminal background check to purchase it.
And that’s on top of the state’s requirement for a background check on every gun sale and a “red flag” law that allows relatives and law enforcement to seek a court order temporarily blocking someone from possessing a gun if he or she shows signs of violence.
In addition, California prevents people who have been convicted of violent crimes from buying or owning a firearm for a decade, and there is a five-year prohibition for those with a history of psychiatric hospitalizations for dangerousness.
Together, these laws have certainly saved lives, keeping guns out of the hands of those who would mow down strangers. But it is also true that no law or series of laws will ever prevent all mass shootings — an argument right-wing critics took to ridiculous extremes on Thursday, as they held up Borderline Bar & Grill as proof that gun control doesn’t work at all because it didn’t work in Thousand Oaks.
That couldn’t be further from the truth.
Their argument also sidesteps the fact that there are simply far too many guns in America — even in California where the Legislature has made it increasingly difficult to buy guns and bullets, but largely left alone the stockpile already in existence. Until that changes, nothing will change.
Consider that several of the people who walked away from Borderline Bar & Grill, alive but traumatized, were also survivors of last year’s mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest country music festival in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and hundreds more injured.
“There’s people that live a whole lifetime without seeing this, and then there’s people that have seen it twice,” a friend of a survivor told the Los Angeles Times.
This isn’t normal.