After Christopher Michaels-Martinez, 20, died in a shooting near University of California, Santa Barbara, his father blamed the pro-gun lobby’s “craven, irresponsible” politics for preventing legislation that could have saved Christopher’s life. Seven people, including the shooter, died Friday.
“Our family has a message for every parent out there: You don’t think it will happen to your child until it does,” an anguished Richard Martinez told reporters. “Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA. They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say: ‘Stop this madness. We don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: Not one more.”
At least five lawmakers and officials have joined the anguished father’s call to confront the NRA, reviving demand for congressional action on gun violence. Last year, following the Newtown massacre, the Senate fell short of 60 votes to advance a bipartisan bill strengthening the background checks system. To date, it’s still easier to access a gun than mental health services in this country. Despite a series of deadly shootings, Congress passed only one — extremely non-controversial — bill last yearrelated to plastic gun regulations.
One lawmaker who wants to revisit gun control is Rep. Peter King, a New York Republican who is an outspoken critic of gun violence. “This tragedy demonstrates once again the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill,” King told The Washington Post. “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. 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.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) called out the NRA’s political dominance on Sunday. “Unfortunately the NRA continues to have a stranglehold on Congress, preventing even commonsense measures like universal background checks that have overwhelming support,” she said. “Americans need to rise up and say enough is enough. Until that happens, we will continue to see these devastating attacks. Shame on us for allowing this to continue.”
“I really since hope that this…unimaginable, unspeakable tragedy will provide an impetus to 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,” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) said on Face The Nation, adding, “it seemed like we were on the verge of legislation that would stop the madness.”
Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), who has pushed for a mental health bill in the House, linked the shooting to mental health treatment. “Our hearts break for the victims and families affected by the tragedy near Santa Barbara,” Murphy said. “We pray for their souls to find peace. But I am also angered because once again, our mental health system has failed and more families have been destroyed because Washington hasn’t had the courage to fix it.”
Education Secretary Arne Duncan, meanwhile, advocated for strengthened background checks and mental health system. “Gun violence has no place anywhere, least of all at our nation’s schools and college campuses, and we must do more to keep guns out of the wrong hands and increase access to mental health services.”
Per its usual strategy following a mass shooting, the NRA has not yet issued a comment.