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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

 
This is what legislative courage on gun control looks like. Action, not just sympathy

by David Atkins

We hear it after every mass shooting: politicians on both sides of the aisle intoning their deepest condolences to the victims and their families. We hear a lot about thoughts and prayers and sympathies. We especially hear it from politicians who kowtow to the NRA and the gun lobby, usually framed in the language of unnamed inexplicable evil that mere humans cannot control.

But the father of one of the victims of the Isla Vista shootings put it best when he said:

“I don’t care about your sympathy. I don’t give a s--- that you feel sorry for me,” Richard Martinez said during an extensive interview, his face flushed as tears rolled down. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”
Damn straight.

Well, some politicians do take their jobs seriously, and have the courage to get to work and do something. And I'm very proud to say that they just so happen to represent me in the California Assembly and State Senate. Das Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson are taking action to help keep guns out of the hands of disturbed individuals by giving family members and friends more power in preventing problem individuals from obtaining firearms:

Today, California State Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) and Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) announced legislation to help prevent mass killings like this weekend’s tragic Isla Vista rampage near UC Santa Barbara that claimed the lives of six students.

The proposed legislation would create a gun violence restraining order, establishing a system where concerned family members, intimate partners or friends can notify law enforcement of someone who is demonstrating a propensity to commit violence toward themselves or others.

“When someone is in crisis, the people closest to them are often the first to spot the warning signs but almost nothing can now be done to get back their guns or prevent them from buying more," Skinner said. “Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies."

Under current law, therapists can notify law enforcement that their client is at risk of committing a violent act allowing authorities to investigate the individual. Law enforcement can prevent the person from buying or owning firearms.

“The tragic incident in my hometown of Isla Vista is not a result of gun laws failing. Rather, it is a horrific example of how our mental health laws and gun control laws are not working together,” said Williams.

The proposed legislation would grant this authority to concerned family members, friends and intimate partners, creating a mechanism to intervene and potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove the firearms already in possession. Law enforcement would have the ability to investigate threats and ask a judge to grant an order prohibiting firearms purchase or possession.

In most cases involving an individual in crisis there is no mechanism to limit firearm access while the individual is seeking or receiving needed help (e.g., mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment, anger management).

Family members may call law enforcement to intervene. However, as evidenced by law enforcement's response to the mother's call regarding her concerns about the shooter in the Santa Barbara incident, if no crime has been committed, or the individual does not meet the criteria for an involuntary civil commitment to mental health treatment, there is essentially nothing that can be done to prevent that individual from purchasing firearms or to temporarily remove firearms from their possession during the crisis.

Senator Hannah Beth Jackson will be joining Williams and Skinner as a principal co-author of the legislation.
Republican Assemblymember Jeff Gorell is running against Congresswoman Julia Brownley in Ventura County just south of Santa Barbara. He has a 92% rating from the NRA, and tweeted his condolences. I challenged him to prove his concern by doing something serious about firearms control. He and all the other Republican politicians will have a chance to prove the weight of their concern for the victims of gun violence by taking an affirmative vote on this bill.

If they fail to support this commonsense legislation, they will prove the emptiness of their hollow sympathies and betray their condolences for what they are: empty speeches by hypocrites, eager to actively deflate the righteous anger that must precede real change.

Let this also be a lesson to the cynics who think both parties are alike, that voting doesn't matter, and that the inside game of politics is worthless. Both Das Williams and Hannah-Beth Jackson faced Democratic primaries from more centrist opponents when they came into office. Many of us worked hard to help make sure the more progressive candidates won. That work mattered, and will make a real difference to help prevent the next tragedy because we have good progressive Democrats in office who are willing to stand up for what's right.


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