By Lois Capps
Two weeks ago, Isla Vista and our community were shocked by an unspeakable tragedy, a violent rampage that touched us all in a very powerful way and left our community and our country grieving and frustrated.
I share that grief and, although our community is still grieving, believe that this is a time for action.
I know many join me in thanking Richard Martinez, the father of victim Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, for bravely speaking out and telling Congress that “Not One More” life should be lost because of inaction. According to the group Everytown, more than 2 million Americans have sent postcards to their elected officials calling for #NotOneMore, and I myself have received dozens of these messages. We should heed this call to action to come together, discuss solutions, and ensure that this conversation does not fade.
I am committed to working on legislation in Washington that will help us address some of the current systematic failings and provide law enforcement more tools in the toolbox to help prevent future tragedies. One area I believe we must specifically examine is the intersection of gun violence and mental health. As this tragedy shows, this is not merely a mental health issue or a gun violence issue — it is both, and we must address these complexities.
I commend my colleagues in the state legislature, state Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and Assemblymember Das Williams, who have introduced a bill calling for a gun violence restraining order and a gun violence prevention warrant. The bill would help ensure that families can work with law enforcement and mental health professional to appropriately intervene when necessary. I am working with U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer to introduce a similar bill at the federal level.
I believe we must also strengthen the mechanisms we currently have in place. That is why just last week, I voted in favor of more federal funding to assist states in improving their submissions to the national gun background check system. I also voted to support grants to distribute firearm safety materials and gun locks as well as increased funding for local and state mental health court programs. Additionally, I voted to increase support for prevention and prosecution for violence against women on college campuses. We must be sure to adequately fund the programs that have proven to be successful in reducing gun violence.
Finally, last week I also joined my California colleague and friend, Rep. Mike Thompson, in introducing the Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act. This bill would strengthen and improve mental health intervention efforts, improve research on mental illness with respect to violence, provide funding for research on gun violence, and ensure a fair process for restoring firearm ownership rights. This bill is not a cure-all, but represents a good first step forward toward making progress on mental health and safety issues.
These are common sense solutions that will protect our communities while preserving a gun owner’s rights under the 2nd Amendment, and I believe it is important to enact them. There’s no question that law-abiding Americans have the right to own a gun, but we all deserve to feel safe in our homes and communities, and families who see disturbing warning signs need to be able to work with law enforcement and mental health professionals so that they may intervene and better prevent acts of violence.
The Isla Vista community’s feelings of safety were stripped away from them the night of May 23, and we must work together to come up with reasonable solutions that restore a greater peace of mind to them, and to everyone on the Central Coast and around the country – and I will continue to work to do just that.
• Rep. Lois Capps, D-Santa Barbara, represents California’s 24th Congressional District. Contact her through her website, capps.house.gov.