Thousand Oaks Shooting: Why Didn’t California’s Strict Gun Laws Stop It?

By By John Woolfolk, Mercury News

The Wednesday night shooting massacre at a Thousand Oaks country music bar was the kind of tragedy that would seem more likely in states like Nevada or Florida known for permissive gun regulations that allow military-style semiautomatic rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines.

But it happened in California, seen as a model for firearm regulation and the only state given an “A” rating by the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s annual gun law score card.

The shooting that took 13 lives, including the alleged gunman who authorities said apparently killed himself, immediately sparked debate over the effectiveness of gun regulations and whether new or different laws or enforcement efforts are needed.

“This can’t be normalized,” Governor-elect Gavin Newsom said of the shootings at a Thursday morning news conference in San Francisco. “This is America, it’s got to change. This doesn’t happen anywhere else on the planet. The response cannot just be more prayers, more excuses. It sure as hell cannot be more guns.”

But gun-rights advocates said Thursday that the shooting shows the ineffectiveness of California’s list of gun regulations.

“Gun control proponents like Gavin Newsom are irrationally committed to passing more and more laws that just don’t prevent violent people from doing evil things,” said Brandon Combs, president of the Firearms Policy Coalition. “He and other anti-gun advocates are the embodiment of insanity, doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. They make innocent people more and more defenseless and then feign shock when their policies result in predictable and tragic outcomes.”

In many ways, Wednesday night’s shooting seemed like something California law would have hindered.

The alleged gunman, identified as a 28-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, was armed with a Glock .45-caliber handgun with an “extended magazine” that holds additional rounds of ammunition. The gun’s standard magazine would hold 13 rounds, and an extended magazine would hold more, but California law prohibits magazines with more than 10-round capacity.

California in 2014 also became the first state to enact a Gun Violence Restraining Order law allowing concerned family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a relative who is found to pose a clear danger to the public or their own safety during a mental crisis.

But there was no indication such an intervention was sought in this case — even though the Thousand Oaks gunman had a history of mental health problems that had led to visits from law enforcement. Neighbors told ABC7 that the gunman suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder.

After a neighbor reported loud noises coming from the shooter’s house in April, deputies responded and found a man “acting a little irrationally.” They called a mental health specialist who assessed him but concluded he couldn’t be involuntarily committed for psychiatric observation.

A neighbor told CNN that the gunman’s mother “lived in fear” of what her son might do and that when police were called to the house earlier this year “it took them about a half a day to get him out of the house.”

The neighbor, Richard Berge said the shooter’s mother told him that while she didn’t fear for her own safety, she was concerned about her son and “kind of beside herself, she didn’t know what to do because he wouldn’t get help.”

Garen J. Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician at UC Davis Medical Center and director of the Violence Prevention Research Program who researches gun violence prevention, said there was nothing in the gunman’s record that would have stopped him from arming himself. And he noted that a judge has put California’s high-capacity magazine ban on hold while weighing a lawsuit brought by gun-rights advocates.

“He wasn’t a prohibited person, and the ban on possession of high-capacity magazines is tied up in court,” Wintemute said. But he added that a Gun Violence Restraining Order “would have been useful and might have come into play in April.”

Check back for updates.

Staff Writer Casey Tolan, CNN and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

This article provided by NewsEdge.