GOLETA, Calif. (AP) — Thousands gathered at the University of California, Santa Barbara on Tuesday to mourn six students killed in a weekend rampage as California lawmakers proposed new ways of keeping guns out of the hands of disturbed killers.
“All died much too young but it’s important that we do not let the arithmetic of this atrocity define them,” UC President Janet Napolitano told a packed crowd.
Each of the victims left a mark on the world and “as long as we hold them in our hearts, they are not gone,” she said.
The school canceled classes and declared a day of mourning and reflection on Tuesday, four days after the shootings and stabbings in the Isla Vista community by 22-year-old community college student Elliot Rodger, who had posted an Internet video outlining his plan to slaughter as many people as possible.
Richard Martinez, whose son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, died in Friday’s attacks, urged students to fight for tougher gun laws.
Rodger had legally obtained three semi-automatic handguns and still had 400 unspent rounds of ammunition when he shot himself to death, authorities said.
“They (politicians) have done nothing and that’s why Chris died … in my opinion,” Martinez said.
“It’s almost become a normal thing for us to accept this,” he said, referring to mass-killings. “It’s not normal…life doesn’t have to be like this.”
He got the crowd to repeatedly chant “Not one more,” in reference to such massacres.
He also read statements from the families of two other slain students, Cheng Yuan Hong and Weihan Wang, both 20, in which they asked for prayers or blessings on the families of the victims and the killer.
“May we together create a peaceful world and let hatred be gone with the wind,” the Hong family statement said.
Earlier Tuesday, two California Assembly members proposed legislation that would create a gun violence restraining order that could be sought from a judge by law enforcement at the request of family members and friends.
“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,” said Democratic Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner of Berkeley, who sponsored the measure with Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara.
Currently, therapists can tell authorities when they fear a client is at risk of committing a violent act. However, there is no prohibition on firearms ownership unless someone has been involuntarily committed for mental health treatment.
Another proposal involves establishing statewide protocols for law enforcement officers who are called to check on mentally troubled people.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento, suggested that authorities should be required as part of such welfare visits to check whether a person has purchased weapons instead of just talking to them.
Additional steps could include searching the individual’s surroundings and talking to roommates, neighbors and relatives, he said.
“There is a lot we can do to prevent these kinds of horrific events in the future,” said Steinberg, who has spent much of his time in the Legislature addressing mental health concerns.
State senators spent 35 minutes at the state Capitol eulogizing the students killed in the weekend violence and expressing frustration that such rampages continue despite previous efforts to end the problem.
The rampage came hours after Rodger emailed a lengthy manifesto to his parents, therapists and others, and a month after sheriff’s deputies had visited him on a welfare check after his parents became concerned about his postings on YouTube.
The deputies found Rodger to be shy but polite and left without walking through the apartment or talking to anyone else. Rodger later wrote in his manifesto that deputies would have found his weapons and foiled his plot if only they had done a bit more checking.
Steinberg was joined by Democrats Jim Beall of San Jose, Hannah-Beth Jackson of Santa Barbara, and William Monning of Carmel in saying that more needs to be done to identify people with severe mental illness and get them the services they need.
Jackson and the other lawmakers said it is important to de-stigmatize mental illness and provide more ways to intervene and save the lives of young people with hopes and dreams.
“They are young people whose parents will never be able to dance at their weddings.” Jackson said. “They are people who will never been able to find the cure for cancer or to brighten up the lives of others, because we as a nation have let this kind of behavior go on too long.”
Thompson reported from Sacramento. Associated Press writer Robert Jablon contributed to this story from Los Angeles.
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