Strict gun own­er­ship laws work in state, but it wasn’t enough to stop bar car­nage


The names and faces and places are dif­fer­ent, but the story is al­ways heart­break­ingly the same.

This time it was Ian David Long, a 28-year-old for­mer U.S. Marine who may have been suf­fer­ing from post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der, who walked into the Border­line Bar & Grill in Thou­sand Oaks on Wed­nes­day night and opened fire on a crowd of coun­try mu­sic fans, many of them col­lege kids.

Armed with smoke bombs and a .45-cal­iber Glock hand­gun he ap­par­ently pur­chased legally, but mod­i­fied with an ex­tended mag­a­zine, au­thor­i­ties say he killed 12 peo­ple, in­clud­ing Ven­tura County sher­iff’s Sgt. Ron Helus who had rushed in to help. Long then turned the gun on him­self.

“It doesn’t mat­ter how safe your com­mu­nity is, it doesn’t mat­ter how low your crime rate is — there are peo­ple who just don’t think prop­erly every­where, I don’t care where you are, and they com­mit hor­rific acts like this. There’s no way to process,” Sher­iff Ge­off Dean told The Los An­ge­les Times. “There’s no way to make sense out of the sense­less.”

In the days ahead, many ques­tions will be asked and an­swered, par­tic­u­larly about Long’s men­tal health. Back in April, Ven­tura County sher­iff’s deputies re­sponded to his home for a com- plaint of dis­turb­ing the peace, but the de­ci­sion was made not to take him into cus­tody, ac­cord­ing to news re­ports. It’s un­clear ex­actly why. He was known to neigh­bors to be both stand­off­ish and volatile.

In times like th­ese, it’s a cold com­fort that Cal­i­for­nia has some of the strictest gun laws in the coun­try. In re­cent years, leg­is­la­tors in Sacra­mento have raised the le­gal age from 18 to 21 to buy a firearm, banned sales of as­sault ri­fles with so­called “bul­let but­tons,” cracked down on sales of am­mu­ni­tion and man­dated a crim­i­nal back­ground check to pur­chase it. And that’s on top of the state’s re­quire­ment for a back­ground check on ev­ery gun sale and a “red flag” law that al­lows rel­a­tives and law en­force­ment to seek a court or­der tem­po­rar­ily block­ing some­one from pos­sess­ing a gun if he or she shows signs of vi­o­lence.

In ad­di­tion, Cal­i­for­nia pre­vents peo­ple who have been con­victed of vi­o­lent crimes from buy­ing or own­ing a firearm for a decade, and there is a five-year pro­hi­bi­tion for those with a his­tory of psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal­iza­tions for dan­ger­ous­ness. To­gether, th­ese laws have cer­tainly saved lives, keep­ing guns out of the hands of those who would mow down strangers. But it is also true that no law or se­ries of laws will ever pre­vent all mass shoot­ings — an ar­gu­ment right-wing crit­ics took to ridicu­lous ex­tremes on Thurs­day, as they held up Border­line Bar & Grill as proof that gun con­trol doesn’t work at all be­cause it didn’t work in Thou­sand Oaks. That couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth. Their ar- gu­ment also side­steps the fact that there are sim­ply far too many guns in Amer­ica — even in Cal­i­for­nia where the Leg­is­la­ture has made it in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult to buy guns and bul­lets, but largely left alone the stock­pile al­ready in ex­is­tence.

Un­til that changes, noth­ing will change. Con­sider that sev­eral of the peo­ple who walked away from Border­line Bar & Grill, alive but trau­ma­tized, were also sur­vivors of last year’s mass shoot­ing at the Route 91 Har­vest coun­try mu­sic fes­ti­val in Las Ve­gas that left 58 peo­ple dead and hun­dreds more in­jured.

“There’s peo­ple that live a whole life­time with­out see­ing this, and then there’s peo­ple that have seen it twice,” a friend of a sur­vivor told the Los An­ge­les Times.

This isn’t nor­mal.

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