Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) acknowledged that legislation may not have stopped the Santa Barbara shooter over the weekend, but he still sees the tragedy as one reason to resurrect gun-control efforts in Congress.
Three men were stabbed to death at the apartment of Elliot Rodger, 22, the son of a Hollywood director, before he went on a drive-by shooting rampage that killed two outside a sorority house and one outside of a deli. Thirteen were injured, some by bullets and some by his vehicle, before Rodger apparently committed suicide.
Rodger had posted disturbing threats on YouTube, prompting a relative to call police. Authorities did a welfare check on the shooter April 30 and found that he didn’t meet the criteria for an involuntary mental health hold.
“Deputies from the sheriff’s office contacted him. They found him to be rather shy and timid, polite, well-spoken. He explained to the deputies that it was a misunderstanding and that he was — although he was having some social problems, it was unlikely he was going to continue to be a student here and was probably going to go home,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told CNN. “And he was able to convince them that he was not at that point a danger to himself or anyone else and wouldn’t have met the criteria for an involuntary hold to examine him further.”
The father of the deli shooting victim, 20-year-old Christopher Michael-Martinez, squarely blamed lawmakers for not enacting some type of gun control legislation after the December 2012 Sandy Hook massacre.
“We’re all proud to be Americans. But what kind of message does it send to the world when we have such a rudderless bunch of idiots in government?” Richard Martinez said on CNN. “I can’t tell you how angry I am. It’s just awful, and no parent should have to go through this… These people are getting rich sitting in Congress. And what do they do? They don’t take care of our kids.”
Blumenthal told CBS on Sunday that Martinez’s “gut-wrenching, heartbreaking statement is a reminder of how we felt in wake of Sandy Hook on Dec. 14, a year-and-half ago, when it seemed like we were on the verge of potentially legislation that would stop the madness and end the insanity that has killed too many young people, thousands, tens of thousands, since Sandy Hook, including Erika Robinson and Javier Martinez on the streets of New Haven, whose lives we commemorated recently.”
“And I hope, I really, sincerely hope that this tragedy, this unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy will provide an impetus to bring back measures that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people who are severely troubled or deranged, like this young man was, and provide resources. We need mental health resources,” the senator continued.
“And that initiative, I hope, will provide a common ground, a point of consensus that will bring us together in the Congress and enable the majority — 90 percent of the American people want background checks — to be heard, to be responded to, and to end the madness and insanity.”
It was pointed out to Blumenthal that Rodger legally purchased his three guns and had hundreds of rounds of ammo but no high-capacity magazines — one target of the post-Sandy Hook gun-control legislation.
“The legislation that failed to pass, it got support from 55 senators, would have provided a mental health initiative with more resources, greater ability for the Santa Barbara police to intervene, to use the sheriff’s word, to have professionals trained in diagnosing and detecting this kind of derangement,” Blumenthal said.
“Obviously, not every kind of gun violence is going to be prevented by laws out of Washington, but at least we can make a start,” he added. “And I am going to urge that we bring back those bills, maybe reconfigure them to center on mental health, which is a point where we can agree that we need more resources to make the country healthier and to make sure that these kinds of horrific, insane, mad occurrences are stopped, and the Congress will be complicit if we fail to act.”
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) said Congress can agree on the aspect of better mental health treatment.
“This was a horrific act of violence that involved not only shootings, but stabbings. And when we get the specifics of the case, we do need to focus on — and I agree with Richard — and ensure that we have policies in place that allow people with mental health issues like these to be diagnosed and to be treated,” Thune said.
“I think that is something on which there is agreement. And that is where we ought to be focusing our efforts.”