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Police didn’t search database showing Calif. shooter’s buys | TribLIVE.com
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Police didn’t search database showing Calif. shooter’s buys

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This undated photo from the California Department of Motor Vehicles shows the driver license photo of Elliott Rodger. Rodger, 22, went on a murderous rampage Friday, May 23, 2014, killing six before dying in a shootout with deputies, in the community of Isla Vista near the University of California, Santa Barbara, in Goleta, Calif., (AP Photo/California DMV)

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — With the toughest gun-control regulations in the country, California has a unique, centralized database of gun purchases that law enforcement officers can easily search. It offers precious intelligence about a suspect or other people they may encounter when responding to a call.

But this rare advantage wasn’t enough to help authorities head off the May 23 rampage in Santa Barbara that claimed six victims.

Before a half-dozen sheriff’s deputies knocked on Elliot Rodger’s door last month in response to concerns raised by his mother about his well-being, they could have checked the database and discovered he had bought three 9mm semiautomatic handguns. Several law enforcement officials and legal experts on gun policy said this might have given deputies greater insight into Rodger’s intentions and his capability for doing harm.

The deputies did not check the database. They left his apartment after finding him to be “shy, timid, polite and well-spoken,” in the words of Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown. The deputies saw no evidence that Rodger was an immediate threat to others or to himself.

“I cringed when I learned they didn’t run for guns,” said Emeryville Police Chief Ken James, who is chairman of the California Police Chiefs Association’s firearms committee.

James said law enforcement officials are not required to check the Dealer’s Record of Sale, or DROS, database before going to the home of someone who is potentially suicidal. But after the killings in Santa Barbara, he said he expects it will become more common.

“Each agency has their own policy on this. Most leave that to the discretion of the officers who are going on the call,” James said. “I don’t know if it will be necessary to require it in the future. I believe officers will begin to do this on their own because of what happened. They will be more aware of this and act on it.”

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