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Santa Monica shootings: Were gun control laws powerless to stop suspect? (+video)

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In Santa Monica, Calif., the 23-year-old Zawahri killed his father and brother before fatally shooting three other people on the campus of Santa Monica College, stocked with an arsenal of bullets, a handgun, and an AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, police say. Zawahri was ultimately killed by law enforcement on the campus. Zawahri's mother, Randa Abdou, is reportedly on a one-month vacation in Lebanon.

In the debate over gun control, discussion quickly turns to demagoguery. But Santa Monica, in particular, could stand as evidence of how hard it is to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, even when laws are in place.

In Newtown, Mr. Lanza apparently had ready access to the stockpile of weapons owned by his mother, a gun enthusiast. But there are no reports yet that Ms. Abdou had the AR-15 allegedly used in the massacre Saturday. The Times quotes the Zawahri family friend as saying: "Everyone is wondering where he got the money for the weapons."

Newtown resulted in a flurry of laws nationwide aimed at making it harder for the mentally ill to buy guns. In fact, though the package of nine gun-control bills introduced in the US Senate this spring was ultimately revoked, the aspect that dealt with mental health was one of the two bills that passed. Even the National Rifle Association backed the bill.

“This is a place where people can come together,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) of Michigan told The New York Times in April, speaking of the mental-health bill. “As we’ve listened to people on all sides of the gun debate, they’ve all talked about the fact that we need to address mental-health treatment. And that’s what this does.”

New Jersey and Florida also strengthened regulations regarding gun control and the mentally ill. Last month, the California Senate passed a bill that would establish a 10-year ban on buying weapons for anyone who violated court-ordered mental-health treatment.

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