On the eve of Gun Appreciation Day, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said gun control debates have distracted the American people from the issue most affecting mass violence: mental health.
“If we look at virtually all of the mass shootings that have occurred in our country, the common denominator in them, in virtually every one, is either untreated or seriously undertreated severe mental illness,” Brown said. “And addressing that issue needs to be our highest priority.”
“Gun control is very controversial, and in reality, it’s very limited in its effectiveness at the end of the day,” Brown said.
California voters passed Proposition 63, an income tax to provide additional mental health services, in November 2004. Brown, a member of California’s Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission, said Prop. 63 does not go far enough.
“The reality is that evil and determined minds can always get around gun control or any other laws that prohibit something in particular,” Brown said. “We’ve seen that with Timothy McVeigh when he killed 168 people in Oklahoma with fertilizer and a rental truck.
“We’ve seen that locally in Isla Vista when a student just used a car and plowed into a crowd and killed a number of innocent people.”
Most recently, the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School moved gun control to the center of legislative debate as legislators, experts and gun advocates offer different opinions about the significance of the phrase “assault weapons.”
Some say differences between firearms and those deemed assault weapons are purely cosmetic. Others identify functional differences and specific features.
President Barack Obama unveiled a $500 million plan Wednesday to ban “military-style assault weapons” and limit ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
Danny Wells, a local firearms instructor and range master, has been teaching firearms training for 25 years.
“Let’s talk about rifles,” he said. “Functionally, you have a single-shot rifle, which means you put one bullet in it, you close the action on it and you pull the trigger. Then, you have a repeating-type rifle.”
He said semi-automatic rifles allow more rapid fire than bolt action, lever action and pump action rifles.
“But you have to pull the trigger every time you fire the gun,” Wells explained.
California legislators banned designated semi-automatic firearms defined as assault weapons in the Roberti-Roos Assault Weapons Control Act of 1989.
That list of weapons includes the series of A-K rifles, centerfire rifles that can accept detachable ammunition magazines, and any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.