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Isla Vista shooting inspires gun control bill focused on mental health

The Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act would allow police to remove guns from the hands of the mentally ill.
By Gabrielle Levy   |   May 30, 2014 at 2:01 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, May 30 (UPI) -- A gun violence prevention task force of Democrats in the House of Representatives is taking a new angle on gun legislation after a California man shot and killed three people in Santa Barbara last week.

Task force chair Mike Thompson, D-Calif., announced Friday a bill that would allow local authorities to remove guns from the hands of criminals, the mentally ill, and domestic abusers.

The Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act would prohibit the purchase of a gun by someone who had been involuntarily hospitalized due to mental illness and or had been convicted of stalking or domestic abuse, even outside a spousal relationship.

Thompson said the law would also help fund states' ability to provide records to the FBI database used for background checks, and would put in place a legal process for police to get a warrant to remove a gun on a mental health basis.

"There's no one law that will save every life, but that's no excuse not to try to do what you can do," Thompson said.

Thompson was joined by Reps. Elizabeth Etsy, whose district includes Newtown, Conn., where a mass shooting took the lives of 20 children and 6 teachers in 2012; and Ed Perlutter, whose Colorado district includes Aurora, where a gunman killed 12 and injured 70, and as a state senator represented Columbine High School, where a 1999 shooting left 13 dead and 24 injured.

Rep. Lois Capps, who represents Santa Barbara, Calif., was the latest addition to this group. On Friday, 22-year-old Elliot Rodger stabbed and killed his three roommates, then fatally shot two women at a sorority house and a man at a deli before engaging in a shootout with police and turning his gun on himself.

"As you can imagine, our community is devastated," Capps said. The legislation is "the kind of change that my community wants; it's the kind of change my grieving community needs right now."

Thompson took care to emphasize the effort paid to upholding Second Amendment rights in crafting the legislation.

Touting his own credentials as a "gun guy," who owns hunting weapons and carried an assault rifle in Vietnam, Thompson said he is "ashamed that we can't step up and pass sensible gun laws to protect our children and our grandchildren and keep our communities safe."

The House passed an amendment Thursday to a larger appropriations bill that would boost funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System, the database that a prospective gun buyer is checked against for felony convictions, a history of mental illness and other red flags. A USA Today investigation found the NICS database is significantly underused, with local law enforcement agencies failing to submit millions of records.

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