Yesterday we covered the breaking news story of a gunman loose in Santa Monica California, moving from scene to scene wreaking havoc and chaos with an assault rifle. More details of yesterday’s Santa Monica spree killings came at today’s 2:00 news conference. The best news was that the number of those killed by the shooter has been downgraded to four [plus the shooter], though the Santa Monica coroner has said he believe the number will rise do to severity of wounds of at least one other victim.
The Santa Monica shooter had 1300 rounds of ammunition…most of them .223 rounds loaded in 30-round magazines and were enough to start a small war, or at least kill dozens if not hundreds of people had he not been stopped just 13 minutes into his killing rampage by responding Santa Monica College and Santa Monica police officers.
He came prepared…rifles, at least one pistol and a couple of dozen of the loaded 30-round magazines. And it wasn’t cheap. 33 magazines cost about $1,000.00, the rifles $600-1200.00 and the ammo was another $780 for the PMC Bronze 55gr. Full Metal Jacket rounds shown at the Santa Monica Police Department press conference. In other words, he brought to bear over $3,000 worth of guns and ammo to the fight.
He also brought to the fight years of stress and mental illness. Neighbors defined him as a “useless human” who was abusive toward his mother. Others said his family was torn apart by a divorce many years ago.
A law enforcement source told CNN on Saturday that the gunman had suffered mental health issues. He was hospitalized for treatment after talking about harming someone.
So now we have to start reviewing this from a view point, not of the tragedy that was unfolding but of how we can reduce the number of instances of senseless murder.
The most glaring issue is that this man, who would have turned 24 today had a history of mental illness. He had been committed at least once, though the details of by whom and for how long are not clear. In any circumstance, his name and condition should have been on a database that defined him as someone who should not be allowed weapons – or at least get a second look.
That brings us to three issues. First, we have continued to reduce the amount of money spent on mental health issues every year since Reagan. We can’t expect those with mental health issues to respond positively to more and more limited options.
Second, the question of universal background checks comes into play. Would a comprehensive safety net, one that included mental health data have stopped this shooter? If he had been required to undergo a check for the purchase of his weapons, would he have passed? If he had been required to go through the five minute check before buying 1,300 rounds of 223 assault rifle ammunition, would he have passed?
Third, if a flag had been raised based on both his mental health issues AND his intent to buy, would he have been able to prepare and execute this murderous rampage?
He may have run through the tests without a hitch, able to buy as much has his credit card would allow…but, on the other hand, he may have been stopped. Today he might have been sharing birthday cake with friends rather than laying in a morgue.
Opponents of universal background checks tend to kneejerk the answer “it wouldn’t help.” But they do that without knowing that it wouldn’t help, they do so because they don’t like regulations, not because of the rational requirements of providing a safer society. Those victims of mass murder, of spree killings, of domestic violence might just have a different answer than “it wouldn’t help.”
McAllister is a life long liberal, environmentalist, Eagle Scout, and even gun owner – born in Harlan, Kentucky and has lived in Southern California, New York City and now resides in Lexington, Kentucky as a Systems Analyst.
You can read more of McAllister’s observations and opinions at Shoot From the Left Hip.