Police Had a Chance to Stop Santa Barbara Killer and Missed It

In the wake of yet another high-profile school shooting we are hearing the all too predictable calls for more laws, more restrictions.

The people who are raising the cry are afraid. They like to complain about how their plans for restrictions are just “common sense,” but they’re not. Laws restricting guns are the desperate gambit of frightened people.

We already have thousands of gun laws on the books across this country, from local to federal levels.

We also have laws regarding the police and how they may intervene in cases where they suspect a crime may be committed.

In fact, some of those laws brought police to the door of Elliot Rodger several weeks before he launched his attack. He had posted some of his threatening videos on YouTube and been reported, apparently, to local mental health officials who contacted the police. It’s unknown who ratted him out, but Rodger himself and various news reports suggest it may have been his mother.

When seven police officers showed up at Rodger’s door, he thought the jig was up. He feared that if they had searched his room the police would have found his guns and his written manifesto detailing his plans for a murder spree. That could have meant a one-way ticket to an iron cell, or maybe a padded one.

But they didn’t search his room, no doubt because of rules regarding probable cause. The police are investigating exactly what happened, but it sounds like this visit was what they sometimes call a “welfare check,” because they seemed more interested in whether Rodger was having suicidal thoughts than planning a crime. It’s unclear if they asked, but police seem to have been unaware that he had any guns, which is odd considering Rodger’s guns were bought legally and therefore should have been registered.

Rodger wrote about the encounter with police at the end of his manifesto:

“After only a week passed since I uploaded those videos on Youtube, I heard a knock on my apartment door. I opened it to see about seven police officers asking for me. As soon as I saw those cops, the biggest fear I had ever felt in my life overcame me. I had the striking and devastating fear that someone had somehow discovered what I was planning to do, and reported me for it. If that was the case, the police would have searched my room, found all of my guns and weapons, along with my writings about what I plan to do with them. I would have been thrown in jail, denied of the chance to exact revenge on my enemies. I can’t imagine a hell darker than that. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, but it was so close.

“… The police interrogated me outside for a few minutes, asking me if I had suicidal thoughts. I tactfully told them that it was all a misunderstanding, and they finally left. If they had demanded to search my room… That would have ended everything. For a few horrible seconds I thought it was all over. When they left, the biggest wave of relief swept over me. It was so scary.”

Until the investigation comes out with answers, it’s reasonable to simply assume that police were following the laws regarding these types of situations.

And that’s the point that should be taken away from the Santa Barbara killings. Despite all the rules in place intended to stop just such a situation, it happened anyway.

More laws, more regulations, especially of guns, are not the answer. Even more police isn’t the answer, because unless an officer happens to be in the neighborhood, cops cannot get to a crime scene in time to stop a killer.

The only rational defense against armed madmen like Rodger is an armed populace.