Op/ed: Our work to prevent gun violence is just beginning
By Hannah-Beth Jackson
It has been just over a month since the tragedy in Isla Vista. The news camera crews are gone. The daily media coverage has waned. But we can’t let the urgent sense that more must be done to prevent gun violence leave us.
No one expressed the urgent need for solutions more poignantly than Richard Martinez, the father of victim Christopher Martinez. How can anyone forget his powerful refrain? “Not one more.”
In the weeks after this tragedy, I introduced Senate Bill 505, which would require law enforcement, when they check in on a person who may be a danger to themselves or others — commonly known as a “welfare check” — to first conduct a search of California’s database of gun purchases to find out if that person has purchased firearms and, if so, how many.
In addition to initiating an important conversation about mental illness and access to guns, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about police protocols. We will never know if the tragedy might have taken a different turn if law enforcement had known about the three guns that Elliott Rodger possessed, but we shouldn’t be left wondering. A check like this can take as little as 90 seconds and can be done by computer or phone.
It just makes common sense.
Law enforcement may not have been able to legally seize Rodger’s guns at that moment. But they might have asked to see them or asked him what he intended to do with them. They might have steered the conversation in an important, life-saving direction. They might even have asked him to surrender his guns voluntarily.
I have also introduced Senate Bill 580, which would provide more than $15 million in funding to law enforcement to take guns away from those who illegally possess them, update aging computer systems used to track gun ownership and provide training on how to use the statewide database of gun purchases.
Currently, the Bureau of Firearms has identified 20,834 people with a prior criminal conviction or mental health disorder that disqualifies them from possessing more than 43,000 firearms.
There are more than 150 such people in Santa Barbara County and approximately 500 in Ventura County. Every day, this list grows by about 15 to 20 people. Let’s get guns away from people we know shouldn’t have them and give law enforcement the support they need to get that done.
I am also the co-author of Assembly Bill 1014, along with Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner and Das Williams, to create a so-called “gun violence restraining order.”
This bill would allow family members to petition a judge to remove guns from a loved one’s possession if the family know that person is in crisis. Such action would buy precious time so that those in crisis can seek treatment for mental health or anger-management issues or drug and alcohol abuse. This is another important step to help prevent needless gun violence.
I also recently joined Senate leader Darrell Steinberg and colleagues in announcing a push to help those with mental illness, including directing $12 million toward law enforcement training to recognize the warning signs of severe mental illness.
This is only the beginning of our work on the challenging and multi-faceted problem of gun violence. This isn’t going to be easy. But throwing up our hands and saying there’s nothing we can do is not an option.
Long after the 24-hour media coverage has stopped, we won’t let the Isla Vista tragedy be forgotten. Let’s keep saying it, meaning it, and fighting for it: Not one more.
• State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson represents the 19th Senate District, which includes all of Santa Barbara County and western Ventura County. Contact her through her website at http://sd19.senate.ca.gov or by calling (916) 651-4019.