Yesterday the California legislature had a real opportunity to pass violence reduction legislation. They could have passed universal, healthcare, funding to reduce homelessness, address our states affordable housing shortage, provide funding to programs that target at risk teens and young adults, legalize marijuana, improve and fund inmate re-entry programs across the state, expand suicide prevention programs, worked with Islamic leaders on an radicalization outreach program, pushed through funding to provide follow up health care for the homeless, and a variety of other programs that would have made a positive difference in peoples lives.
Instead, in the name of “Doing Something”, we’ve now got the most comprehensive package of legislation that will accomplish nothing to reduce the murder rate, discourage terrorism, or help those who are suicidal. Let’s unpack this a bit more with a background.
Back in November, Gavin Newsom, in an effort to raise his profile for the 2018 governors race, worked to put together a number of ballot initiatives that were ostensibly to target gun violence after realizing that supporting the marijuana legalization initiatives wouldn’t be enough. He essentially took the anti-gun wish list that the California Legislature had tried to pass a number times, but had either gotten stalled or vetoed and made it into ballot initiatives.
Fast forward to June of this year, and the California legislature realized that having all of those proposals on the ballot for November could have a negative impact on other, more important ballot initiatives- increasing the turnout of gun rights supporters might indeed have negative ramifications for the marijuana legalization efforts, even though polling is showing that it’s leading, turnout is everything. So they took their old wish list, including stuff that had previously been vetoed in years past or had gotten tossed out by the courts as being unconstitutional (signed by a Republican governernator by the way).
So what you might ask. We have to do something about the horrifically increasing gun violence ripping across our country! Except that it’s not. Murder rates across the country are down by 50% from their highs in the early 1990’s. In fact, we haven’t seen rates this low since the 1950’s. And not just in California- even in states like Texas, which is about the polar opposite on gun legislation.
As to the specific bills in question, there are twelve of them. Some are worse than others, but out of the twelve, you’d think that one of them would actually make a difference. They don’t. Let’s unpack each one:
SB1446: Restrict possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.
It’s already illegal to buy or import magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, regardless of whether the gun in question was designed that way from the beginning. This goes one step further and mandates the sale, destruction, or turn in of a citizens legally owned private property. It’s not designed to stop crime, it’s designed to punish gun owners and cause an undue financial burden to them, as at best, they would have to fire sale their private property at below cost to out of state buyers who could just buy new magazines instead. The average number of shots fired in a murder? 4
SB 1235: Require a background check to buy ammunition
On the surface, this may sound reasonable if you are not familiar with going shooting at the range or competing in various sports. Heck, hunters should only need one bullet a season, right? Wrong. To be good at anything takes practice. Lots of it. Olympic shooters, 3 gun competitors, IDPA/USPSA competitors, even training classes consume huge volumes of ammunition. In a two day training class where you are learning to be safer and a better shot you can easily go through 1000 rounds of ammunition. A criminal only needs one bullet. With this law on the books you can’t even let your buddy at the range shoot a magazine of bullets, as that would require a background check and paperwork to do so. Instructors couldn’t teach new people to shoot a 22 without first going to a store and having them go through a background check. Again, this is merely punitive to gun owners, with no impact on crime.
AB 2607: Broadens who can request a gun violence restraining order to essentially anyone
The original bill that created this gun violence restraining order wasn’t good. This takes it steps further and now if you have a coworker who hates guns and finds out you have some, guess what? They can now file with the courts to have your guns taken away- even if there’s no evidence or reason. Yes, you can go to court and work to have it struck down. With our already overloaded court system and the costs to fight it however, the possibility for abuse and the amount of time that someone would lose from work make this a huge financial burden.
SB 880: Bans bullet buttons
Back in 2001, the state of California banned a group of firearms by their characteristics, deeming those characteristics as being too dangerous. Primarily targeted at AR-15’s and AK-47’s, even though there is no functional difference between those firearms and other semi-automatic rifles which have been around since the 1850’s. (Even earlier depending on what rifles you look at) To comply with this law, a part was developed that made these rifles have a fixed magazine, which required a tool to remove the magazine, which is referred to as a “bullet button”. The use of rifles with this bullet button in crimes is near zero. When there have been crimes committed with semi-automatic rifles, they have been illegally modified, showing that simply, criminals don’t care about the laws anyway. The only folks complying are your friends and neighbors who target shoot, hunt, or compete.
AB 857: Ghost guns
This legislation is intended to make sure that folks can’t manufacture guns at home- the problem being two fold: First, a hunk of metal can be turned into a gun, as can a hunk of plastic. The cats been out of the bag on this for a very long time. The second issue is again, the fact that we’re not targeting criminals with this law. Instead, it’s more money and hoops to jump through for legal gun owners, with no societal benefit. It was vetoed previously for exactly this reason. Jerry Brown said that he “can’t see how adding a serial number to a homemade gun would significantly advance public safety.”
SB 894: Lost or stolen gun reporting
On the surface this sounds like a good idea, but as Jerry Brown said, after having the same legislation on his desk twice before in 2012 and 2013, for the following reasons:
Brown rejected a bill that would have required owners whose firearms are lost or stolen to promptly notify law enforcement. The governor noted he vetoed a similar bill last year and still doubts that criminalizing the failure to report missing weapons would help law enforcement track down gun traffickers or those prohibited from owning weapons.
Nothing has changed since then, and this law would do nothing to change anyone’s behavior. Instead you are punishing someone twice if they don’t realize something is stolen in a “reasonable” amount of time. Better not go on vacation.
AB 1511: Prohibiting the loan of a firearm to anyone except immediate family
Another one that sounds like a great idea. As long as you’ve never been in the gun community. With this law, if a couple of friends go to the range together, and a buddy wants to try out your new hunting rifle, the neat new pistol you just got, or anything along those lines, that’s now illegal. Instead, you’d have to go to a federal firearms dealer and do a transfer, have them wait 10 days while your rifle or handgun is held, then they could take possession to shoot ten rounds before giving it back to you. Taking a buddy hunting for the first time? Not with your gun. Teaching some kids from 4h how to shoot a shotgun? Nope. Not anymore. This law is complete overreach, and will not do anything to reduce crime.
AB 1176: Makes it a felony to steal a gun, regardless of actual cost
Felonies are separate from misdemeanors. They are determined largely by the dollar amount taken. I’m not one to defend someone who steals at all, but the punishment should fit the crime. Stealing a gun that’s worth $200 should not carry a stiffer penalty than stealing a TV that’s worth $900. Again, this bill adds unnecessary burdens to the court system and does nothing to reduce crime.
AB 1695: Blocks people who have knowingly made false reports on the loss or theft of a gun from possessing firearms for 10 years.
Paired with AB 1176, the intent reads that it’s to prevent people from lying about having a gun stolen, so that you can’t falsely get someone strung up with a felony without penalty. Possibly the least egregious of these bills, but really, is it going to make any substantial difference in crime? No.
These proposed laws indeed would “Do Something”. However, the “something” that they are doing is wasting taxpayer dollars and resources which should and could be spent on actually helping. Governor Brown, please veto all of these bills. You’ve already vetoed many of them before with good cause. Voters of California, when these ballot proposals that mirror these laws in large part come up for vote in November, please read them. Read why your Governor previously vetoed them. And vote against them- they won’t help to reduce violence, and will wind up costing us dollars that our schools, homeless, and infrastructure could sure use going forward.