On Wednesday, California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) introduced two new gun-related bills that would change how law enforcement approaches mental illness and gun ownership. The first of the bills, SB 505, will require police officers to search through California’s database of gun purchases and the Automated Firearms System when investigating people who may be a danger to themselves or others. The second, SB 580, will provide millions of dollars in additional funding for law enforcement to enforce existing gun laws.
“Both of these bills are about making better use of the tools and the laws at hand to help prevent gun violence,” Jackson said in a press release.
The bills come just weeks after a murderous rampage in the college town of Isla Vista on May 23 that left seven people dead and 13 injured. Twenty-two-year-old Elliot Rodger killed three men at his apartment with a knife before going on a shooting spree that took the lives of three others. Rodger traded gunfire with law enforcement and was later found dead, likely from a self-inflicted shot to the head. A family attorney revealed in the aftermath that Rodger had been receiving psychiatric treatment.
The incident raised calls for further gun control in a state already considered one of the nation’s toughest on firearms.
“In addition to instigating an important conversation about mental illness and gun violence, the tragedy in Isla Vista has also raised questions about law enforcement protocols,” said Jackson. “Right now, we seem to have a patchwork of inconsistent agency policy on database checks. This bill would create consistency and ensure that law enforcement agencies are using the tools available to them to gather potentially life-saving information for themselves and others.”
Although the Senator conceded that officers may not have had the authority to confiscate Rodger’s firearms, she said that the information within the gun database would have helped law enforcement make a decision on the threat Rodger posed.
“We will never know for sure if the outcome in Isla Vista might have been different with a gun database search,” Jackson said. “But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn’t be left wondering. Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives.”
In addition, SB 580 will provide local law enforcement agencies with $5 million in extra funding to take away firearms from those who do not legally possess them. Another $10 million will be allocated over the next three years to upgrade the Department of Justice’s data collection systems.
On a national scale, President Barack Obama also indicated that he has not given up on gun control measures. When speaking with Tumblr founder David Karp during a question-and-answer session shortly after a school shooting in Oregon, the president said lawmakers should feel ashamed for not having passed national gun control legislation.
“The country has to do some soul searching about this,” Obama said. “This is becoming the norm, and we take it for granted in ways that, as a parent, are terrifying to me.”