After Santa Barbara Shooting, Should California Reconsider Gun Laws?

By Daniel Taylor, Esq. on May 27, 2014 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

In the aftermath of last week's deadly shooting in Santa Barbara, California, shock is turning into anger for many who feel that lax gun laws are at least partially to blame.

Others argue that if California's gun laws, already some of the most onerous in the nation, couldn't prevent this shooting that no amount of rules will.

What are some saying could have been done to prevent the shooting?

'When Will Enough People Say, Stop This Madness?'

Police now say that 22-year-old Elliot Rodger had already stabbed his three roommates to death when he shot three strangers, killing two and wounding a third. After fatally shooting another student at a nearby deli and running down several bicyclists in his car, Rodger took his own life, investigators say.

Among the victims of last week's shooting was Chris Martinez, son of Santa Barbara attorney Richard Martinez. According to The Los Angeles Daily News Martinez was adamant that his son's death mark a turning point for gun control. "They talk about gun rights. What about Chris' right to live?" Martinez said. "When will enough people say: 'Stop this madness?'"

Gun Mind Control

In the wake of 2012's Sandy Hook school shooting, gun control was back on the table for many lawmakers. This included California governor Jerry Brown who signed a rash of new gun control laws in 2013. However, he also vetoed several of the more restrictive laws enacted by the legislature, which drew harsh criticism from many at the time.

According to The Ventura County Star, the three handguns found on Rodger following the shooting were all purchased legally. This is leading some to wonder whether the shooting had more to do with California's mental health regulations than its gun laws. Rodger had a long history of treatment from mental health professionals and his parents had also contacted police shortly before the shooting. Even if police had felt Rodger was a threat, they would have had a hard time doing anything about it, says psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey.

"In California, like most states, we have closed 95 percent of public psychiatric beds. Even if a decision had been made to involuntarily commit Mr. Rodger for an evaluation, it would have been extremely difficult to find a bed," Torrey tells Slate.

Precisely because the shooting did not run afoul of any gun laws or mental health regulations, many feel like reform is still necessary.

Editor's Note June 2, 2014: This post was revised to clarify that three of Rodger's victims were stabbed to death while three others were fatally shot.

Related Resources:

Copied to clipboard