Members of both major political parties are calling for laws to make it tougher for the mentally ill to buy guns after the Friday rampage in California that left six people and the gunman dead — four of them from gunshot wounds.
Republican Rep. Peter King of New York told The Washington Post
that stronger background checks are needed and that he is pursing legislation to get more help for the mentally ill.
Friday's killings near the University of California at Santa Barbara campus were carried out by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger, who had a history of mental issues. Still, he was able to buy his guns legally since he had no criminal history and had never been involuntarily committed to a mental health facility.
"This tragedy demonstrates once again the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill," King told the Post.
King's position is a minority view in his party, which has largely resisted attempts to toughen gun laws.
"Even though this issue may not be popular in particular congressional districts, if we want to be a national party, we ought to be looking closely at it," King said.
King joined California Democratic Rep. Mike Thompson in 2013 in introducing a bill that would have extended background checks, but it has yet to be brought for a vote. A similar bill failed in the Senate in April 2013, bringing an angry response from President Barack Obama in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings.
King said he sees little hope for his bill since others have failed in the past. Still, he said, "We’ve got to look at how we define mental illness, who is denied weapons and who is not, and focus the discussion. We have to have this debate."
Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, appearing on "Face the Nation"
on Sunday said he hopes Friday's tragedy will "bring back measures that would keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, who are severely troubled or deranged like this young man was."
Blumenthal admitted that laws cannot prevent every act of gun violence, but added that Congress should "make a start." The previous bill should be reconfigured to focus on mental health, an issue that both sides agree on, he said.
America needs "more resources to make the country healthier and to make sure that these kinds of horrific, insane, mad occurrences are stopped," Blumenthal said.
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