Criminal Justice

Slaying of son in killing rampage catapults lawyer to forefront of gun-control debate

Richard Martinez's speech.

A week ago, Richard Martinez was known only as a California criminal defense lawyer.

Now the 60-year-old is in a national spotlight after calling for a grassroots gun-control campaign after the slaying of his only child, Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez, on Friday. Michaels-Martinez, who was killed Friday along with five other University of California-Santa Barbara students in various locations in a nearby college town, the 20-year-old had wanted to go to law school. The accused gunman, Elliott Rodger, 22, apparently committed suicide after a rampage in which he stabbed or shot six people to death and injured 13 others, including two bicyclists he struck with his car and multiple people injured in drive-by shootings, according to the Washington Post (reg. req.).

Martinez took center stage Saturday when he urged journalists to focus their cameras on him after a press conference by the Santa Barbara sheriff’s department and gave an emotional, 80-second speech blasting “craven” political leaders and the National Rifle Association, another Washington Post (reg. req.) story reports.

“They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’ right to live?” said Martinez. “When will enough people say: ‘Stop this madness! We don’t have to live like this! Too many people have died!”

He called for the public to demand “Not! One! More!” then tearfully fell to his knees.

A BBC News video of the cri de coeur posted on YouTube been seen nearly 40,000 times as of Tuesday. Meanwhile, Martinez has been fending off sympathy calls from members of Congress and urging those who agree with him to send postcards with the “Not! One! More!” message to lawmakers.

He wants immediate action from lawmakers, not sympathetic words, Martinez told the Post. “Get to work and do something. I’ll tell the president the same thing if he calls me. Getting a call from a politician doesn’t impress me.”

While Martinez blames lax gun laws for his son’s shooting (Rodger, whose own family was concerned that he might be dangerous, reportedly had some 400 rounds of ammunition), the bereaved dad is sympathetic to the issues faced by others with links to the killing rampage.

The sheriff’s department, which sent officers to talk with Rodger but didn’t take him to a hospital for a psychological evaluation, was handicapped by stringent commitment laws, Martinez said. And the shooter’s family, who called authorities with their concerns prior to the slayings, is suffering, too, he pointed out, saying that he hopes to join with the Rodgers family in seeking a more effective legal framework.

“I’ve been told that the shooter’s father has said he wanted to devote his life to making sure that doesn’t happen again. I share that with him,” Martinez told the Post. “He’s a father. I’m a father. He loved his son. I love my son. His son died. My son died.”

The Rodger family did not respond to a request for comment by the Post.

See also: “Can a gun-violence restraining order curb gun violence? California lawmakers back the idea”

Associated Press: “Santa Barbara shootings: Elliot Rodger’s slain roommates had planned to move out”

Daily Mail: “Footage shows Chris Michael-Martinez, 20, enter grocery store just as Hollywood director’s son opens fire killing him and wounding several others”

MSNBC: “After UC Santa Barbara shooting, does gun control have new life?”

Updated May 29 to add subsequent coverage.

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