Gov. Jerry Brown would be wise to convene a special session, as soon as possible, to look hard at the shootings in Santa Barbara. The framing question is: What Would It Take to Prevent Anything Like This From Happening Again?
That’s the question that has been pressed by the father of one of the victims of Friday night’s killings. And it’s the right question to drive a special examination of the question, one that should engage the full legislature.
Let’s have hearings, and not just in Sacramento – Santa Barbara and L.A. would be proper venues. Bring not merely experts or advocates but people who were on the ground. Subpoena all who knew the shooter, and get a narrative of that behavior. The Santa Barbara sheriffs who dealt with the shooter – both in the weeks before and in responding Friday night – should be questioned in public, in detail. We should hear from parents as well.
The first goal should be understanding. The second, change. What actions could have been taken to prevent this – and similar future shootings, which, without change, appear inevitable? What laws need altering? What tools do police, parents, friends, and mental health providers need to stop people like the shooter? And what tools don’t they have? What assistance and help might have been of use to the shooter in his battle with his illness?
Some progress was made on some of these subjects last year. And in the past few days, new legislation has emerged to try to answer these questions. The special session would provide an opportunity to focus on those legislative deals.
While decades of previous mass shootings have sparked little change around the country, we shouldn’t be cynical about making changes here. California has seen many significant improvements in public safety and health in recent years. Why can’t we prevent mass shootings as well?
At the very least, a special session could answer that question.