California bill proposed 'gun violence restraining order'

California bill proposed 'gun violence restraining order'
This photo shows the windshield of a car that was shattered by a bullet at the scene of a shooting on Saturday, May 24, 2014, in Isla Vista, Calif. A drive-by shooter went on a rampage near a Santa Barbara university campus that left seven people dead, including the attacker, and others wounded, authorities said Saturday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — In the wake of the killings in Santa Barbara, some state lawmakers want a way people can report someone who is a threat for violence, with a process then to temporarily remove guns from that person.

One of the authors of a bill says current mental health laws and gun control laws aren't working together.

"I think we should always take a prudent review of our laws at a time like this," interim Kern County Mental Health Director Bill Walker told Eyewitness News.

But, he said with this issue, laws have to address both public safety and individual rights.

State Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, announced the proposal Tuesday.

"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," reads a statement on the websites for both lawmakers.

The legislators say when family members would notify law enforcement, there would be a tool to "potentially prohibit the purchase of firearms and/or remove the firearms already in possession."

The statement says authorities could investigate the threats and ask a judge to grant an order banning gun purchase or possession.

Walker said the idea should be seriously considered and debated, but he has concerns.

Bakersfield attorney Loren Kleier also has doubts.

"It's unnecessary," Kleier said. "We have plenty of statues already on the books that are in place."

He points to the "51-50" hold that trained professionals can order for someone with mental issues, and he said that has a function to remove guns.

One of his client's guns were taken after the man's girlfriend called law enforcement about his irrational behavior.

"They confiscated his guns, and the only way he was going to be able to get them back was through going through the court procedures," Kleier said.

The attorney also worries about relatives getting a say in having someone's guns removed.

"I can see an ex-spouse or someone making these allegations," Kleier said. "It's very common as it is already."

"I don't think the parents should be able to decide on that," Bakersfield resident Dave Bealessio said. "They could be doing it to a kid they're mad at."

But, Simone Anglin said the idea has merit.

"That would definitely be a good help so people can get that mental help that they need."

Resident Bill Stacy agreed.

"We need better ways to identify potential mass murderers ahead of time," he said. "And family members are probably the best place to start with that."

"Any effort to get families involved in their loved one's care is positive," Walker said.

But, he stressed the need for professional evaluation of concerns.

"If you're concerned about somebody, please bring that to the attention of the mental health system," he said.

In Kern County, that system includes the special Mobile Evaluation Team (MET). These professionals respond to locations requested by law enforcement for people who seem to be in crisis.

Kleier gives high credit to Kern's MET team, and thinks Santa Barbara County may not have similar resources.

In the weekend incident, six students were killed and the suspect then killed himself. It turns out the family Elliot Rodger had reported their concerns, and it's reported he had multiple therapists.

Rodger had sent out a detailed manifesto outlining his plans shortly before his rampage.

Walker said authorities need to pay more attention to social media as they evaluate someone's mental issues. He said that is being done locally.

In the Santa Barbara incident, the first three victims were not shot to death. They were stabbed. Kleier notes no one's talking much about that.

"Unfortunately, I think of a lot of the politicians would rather point fingers at firearms, and not look at the real issue," Kleier said. "The real issue is mental health."

Walker wants to see a different approach to violence like this. He thinks there should be a campaign for prevention, similar to suicide prevention efforts.

"Where's the danger prevention? Where's the shooter prevention?" he asked. "Where are the spots on radio, or television or on the buses."

"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," Assemblymember Skinner said in the website statement. "Parents, like the mother who tried to intervene, deserve an effective tool they can act on to help prevent these tragedies."

"Yes, they should be calling if they think someone has a potential for danger, they can do that now," Walker said. But, he says questions should be asked about how guns would be removed under the proposal, and for how long.

He sees another direction to head off violence like this.

"What we're seeing is a proliferation of violence, and what we need to do is actually work, I think, at prevention and the culture," Walker said. "That people just do not see this as the right way to go when they're angry."