By Aaron Mendelson
SACRAMENTO Calif. (Reuters) - The California Senate passed a bill on Friday requiring local law enforcement to search a database of firearms owners in most cases when carrying out checks on people who may harm themselves or others.
The move follows the Isla Vista killings in Southern California in May, when 22-year-old Elliot Rodger fatally shot and stabbed six people before killing himself near the University of California Santa Barbara campus.
Less than a month before the killings, local law enforcement carried out a "welfare check" on Rodger. Welfare checks are inquiries into the well-being of a person, motivated by concern that they may pose a danger to themselves or others.
California state Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, whose district includes Isla Vista and who introduced the bill, said it would never be known for sure whether a gun database search then might have led to a different outcome in the case of Rodger.
"But the next time California experiences a similar tragedy, we shouldn't be left wondering," she said. "Searches of the gun database can be done in as little as 90 seconds, and those 90 seconds can help save lives."
The bill requires law enforcement to search the California Department of Justice's Automated Firearms System database prior to conducting welfare checks on individuals to find out if they own a gun. Exceptions are made for "exigent" circumstances.
The state Senate voted 32-0 to approve the bill, which is expected to cost the state about $400,000 per year and now heads to California Governor Jerry Brown's desk.
It had been opposed by the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees. Its president, Brandon Combs, said that in the last three days the association changed its stance to neutral/watch in response to amendments that were made to the bill.
(Reporting by Aaron Mendelson; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Lisa Shumaker and Eric Beech)