Recent Violence Could Have Been Prevented with Laura's Law, Say Supporters

Laura's Law has been on the books in California for nearly ten years, but continues to be only sporadically applied, leading an increasing number of supporters to question whether recent, high-profile acts of violence could have been prevented if only the jurisdictions involved were willing to enforce it.

Adopted by the California legislature in 2002 and named after a 19-year-old college student murdered by a mentally ill patient, Laura's Law allows for court-ordered assisted outpatient treatment. The historical weakness of the law, however, is that its application is contingent on acceptance by each county's board of supervisors. Now supporters of the law are using the recent hair salon shooting that left eight people dead in Seal Beach to call for renewed consideration of the law and its potential benefits.

Court records show that Scott Dekraai, the suspected shooter, was diagnosed in September 2008 with post-traumatic stress disorder. If Orange County, where the shooting took place, had required Dekraai to undergo psychiatric treatment—the argument goes—eight tragic deaths could have been averted. Currently, it is the policy of Orange County to only treat individuals who volunteer.

Supporters of the law also point to other counties that could have benefited from a stricter application of Laura's Law. Last month, a mentally ill man was killed by a SWAT team after allegedly killing a councilman and city employee. Until treatment is given to at-risk individuals before they become violent, the full value of Laura's Law will go unrecognized.

Source: OC Weekly Blogs

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