SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - Motivated to act after a deadly rampage near the University of California, Santa Barbara, state lawmakers advanced a bill Wednesday that would allow judges to temporarily take firearms from people who show signs that they could harm themselves or others.
The Senate passed AB1014 by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, on a 23-8 vote as the parents of two shooting victims watched from a viewing gallery. The bill still needs to return to the Assembly before the governor can consider the legislation.
The legislation would make California the first state to let family members and law enforcement officers ask a judge to issue temporary restraining orders preventing people from possessing a firearm when a person poses a threat. It was drafted in response to an attack on May 23 that left six people dead and 13 others wounded in the community of Isla Vista.
Supporters of AB1014 said the parents of 22-year-old Elliot Rodger lacked any tools to seek help for their son.
"If it can save one life, it will be worth it," said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, who presented the bill in the Senate. Jackson said the worst thing that can happen is a gun owner would have to wait 21 days to get their gun back.
Republicans were opposed, not wanting to restrict gun rights. "It does seem we use every tragedy to disarm the law-abiding citizens," said Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber.
Long before Rodger went on his violent rampage, his parents were so concerned that they had his therapist contact Santa Barbara County mental health officials. Sheriff's deputies talked to him and decided he was not a threat to himself or others. They weren't required to investigate further and didn't.
Had they searched his room, they might have found guns that police said he used to fatally shoot three people after stabbing to death three others. Rodger killed himself while being pursued by police.
"If California had a gun violence restraining order process in place when the Isla Vista shooter's parents asked police for help with their son, the police could have acted, and things may be very different for us today," said Richard Martinez, father of victim Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, at a press conference ahead of the Senate vote.
Bob Weiss, father of victim Veronika Weiss, spoke haltingly about the loss of his daughter.
"She was killed in an act of senseless gun violence, and now I'll never get to watch her graduate, dance with her at her wedding," Weiss said. "I'll never celebrate another Father's Day with her, but what I can do is speak out so that other families do not suffer what my family has been through."
Connecticut, Indiana and Texas already have laws that let law enforcement seek to seize guns from people they deem to be a danger.
In California, legally purchased guns can only be seized by authorities from people convicted of a felony or a violent misdemeanor; people subject to a domestic violence restraining order; or those who are determined to be mentally unstable.
Another related bill by Jackson, SB505, would require law enforcement agencies to develop policies that encourage officers to search the state's database of gun purchases as part of routine welfare checks. That bill has already moved to the governor's desk.
Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.
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