Mass shooting in Santa Barbara: Another disturbed young man?

The shooter who killed six people near the UC Santa Barbara campus Friday night has been identified by his family as 22 year-old Elliot Rodger. It appears to be another case of a disturbed young man with easy access to guns.

Elliot Rodger/YouTube/REUTERS
A frame grab from a video that was posted on YouTube by an individual who identified himself as Elliot Rodger. The family lawyer says the 22 year-old has been tentatively identified as the suspect in a shooting rampage that killed 6 people near the UC Santa Barbara campus

Like so many other recent mass shootings, Friday night’s deadly mayhem near a University of California campus in Santa Barbara seems sure to provoke another debate about guns and the disturbed individuals who use them to wreak havoc.

Authorities have yet to identify the shooter who killed six people and wounded seven more, firing a semi-automatic handgun as he drove a black BMW through the Isla Vista beach neighborhood.

But the attorney for Peter Rodger, an assistant director on "The Hunger Games," issued a statement saying the family believes the shooter to have been Mr. Rodger’s son Elliot Rodger.

"The Rodger family offers their deepest compassion and sympathy to the families involved in this terrible tragedy,” attorney Alan Shifman said in a statement. “We are experiencing the most inconceivable pain, and our hearts go out to everybody involved.”

In addition to those killed in the rampage, the shooter was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head. It’s unclear whether he took his own life or was shot during two exchanges of gunfire with police before his car crashed into a parked vehicle.

The picture that’s emerging is of a disturbed, lonely young man who had vowed revenge on humanity, especially college sorority girls who refused his attention.

Mr. Shifman said the family had called police several weeks ago after being alarmed by YouTube videos "regarding suicide and the killing of people."

Police interviewed Elliot Rodger and found him to be a “perfectly polite, kind and wonderful human,” Shifman added. Police did not find a history of guns, but did say Rodger “didn’t have a lot of friends,” had trouble making friends and didn’t have any girlfriends.

Describing the shootings as "premeditated mass murder," Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said authorities were analyzing a disturbing YouTube video posted that shows a young man describing plans to shoot women that appears to be connected to the attack.

"It's obviously the work of a madman," Sheriff Brown said.

The family is not ready to speak publicly yet, the lawyer said, but wants to cooperate fully with police, public agencies and "any other person who feels that they need to help prevent these situations from ever occurring again," Shifman said.

"My client's mission in life will be to try to prevent any such tragedies from ever happening again," he said. "This country, this world, needs to address mental illness and the ramifications from not recognizing these illnesses."

Shifman said the family is "staunchly against guns" and supports gun-control laws. "They are extremely, extremely upset that anybody was hurt under these circumstances," Shifman said.

Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown offered his condolences to the victims’ families, saying he was saddened to learn “of this senseless tragedy.”

In a statement, the UC Santa Barbara said several students were shot and taken to the hospital and it was “shocked and saddened” by the tragedy.

“This is almost the kind of event that’s impossible to prevent and almost impossible to predict,” UC President Janet Napolitano told reporters after giving the commencement speech at Laney College in Oakland, California.

In recent years, Americans have watched as a series of mass shootings have involved young, mentally and emotionally disturbed young men with apparent easy access to firearms.

They include: 32 killed at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, in 2007; 27 killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; 13 killed at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in 1999; 12 killed and 58 wounded in a shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater in 2012; eight killed at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2007; six killed and then-Rep. Gabby Giffords badly injured in Tucson, Ariz. in 2011; six killed and 21 wounded at a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University in 2008.

Gun control advocates continue to push – unsuccessfully – for stiffer regulations on gun ownership and limits on the size of ammunition magazines. The National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates continue to fight those efforts, insisting that the principal issue is mental health.

In response to Friday night’s shooting in Santa Barbara, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence's Executive Director Robyn Thomas released the following statement:

"We are incredibly saddened to learn of the news of another mass shooting in our country. Our thoughts are with the families and friends of all those affected by this senseless tragedy. While the specific details of this massacre are still unfolding, we know that this incident is yet another example of the epidemic of gun violence that plagues our country. We don't have to live in a society where so many lives are lost to gunfire. As a country, we must come together to enact commonsense, smart laws that will reduce death and injury from firearms." 

The NRA has yet to comment on this latest incident of gun violence.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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