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Gun Control Advocate Speaks Against Campus Carry Bill

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John Locher/AP

Handguns are displayed at a trade show in Las Vegas.

A bill to allow people to carry concealed weapons on Nevada college campuses is making its way through the state Legislature.

Sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, the bill failed in two previous tries, but has a chance this year because Republicans hold majorities in the Senate and Assembly.

Vocal opposition, however, is growing. One voice is that of Richard Martinez. His son, Christopher Michaels-Martinez, was murdered last year by spree-killer Elliot Rodger on the UC Santa Barbara campus.

Martinez told KNPR’s State of Nevada that when he found out his child had been murdered he went into complete and utter despair. He was a criminal defense lawyer but since his son’s murder nearly a year ago, he has not returned to a courtroom.  

“Work that I thought was important, isn’t any more,” Martinez said.

Rodger also stabbed two roommates to death, and shot eight more, killing three. Rodger then committed suicide.

It wasn’t until his son was killed that Martinez actually thought about the gun-rights debate, but the crime that took his son has spurred him into action.

“I can’t accept how my son died. I think we can do better. I don’t want any more parents to lose their children the way we did,” Martinez said.

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For Martinez, it is not about banning handguns; it is about a practical approach to the Second Amendment.

“If we took it literally everyone could own a tank, or an atomic bomb, or a machine gun, or an Apache Helicopter,” Martinez said.

He points to limits on other freedoms outlined in the Constitution from freedom of speech to the free practice of religion. He said there are reasonable limits on those rights and the same idea should apply to gun ownership.

“We need to keep guns out the hands of dangerous people,” Martinez said, “We need to approach this issue with common sense.”

Martinez backs better background checks for would-be gun owners and stronger limits on the mentally ill getting guns.

In California, following the attacks on UC Santa Barbara, lawmakers passed the Red Flag Law, which allows families and law enforcement to petition a judge to allow them to remove guns from a person deemed unstable.

The young man responsible for Christopher Martinez’s death and the deaths of three others had sought mental health help for most of his life. He did not have a criminal record and was not formally diagnosed with a mental illness.

“Rodger didn’t appreciate that he was mentally ill. A person like that is really dangerous,” Martinez said.

Martinez said the country needs to approach gun violence the same way it approached the number of people killed in car crashes in the 50s and 60s.

He said there was not one thing that brought down the number of people killed, instead it was a series of efforts from drunk driving legislation to better cars to improved street lighting that ultimately made roads safer.  

When asked what he would tell Nevada lawmakers, who are discussing the campus carry bill, he said he would tell them they don’t want to be in his position.

He said at least he got a chance to be with his son for 20 years, but parents of the victims from Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut never got that chance.  

“Can you image sending your kid off to elementary school at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 6 and 7 years old and having your child murdered? In elementary school? How is that an acceptable situation?” Martinez asked.

Copyright 2015 KNPR-FM. To see more, visit http://www.knpr.org/.

Guests

Richard Martinez, gun control advocate

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