Last year, California’s Legislature and voters enacted a veritable blizzard of legislation making private gun ownership more difficult and expensive, including new restrictions on magazine capacity and ammunition sales.
Gov. Jerry Brown rejected some of the anti-gun bills sent to his desk. Nevertheless, the political crusade against guns was so intense that surrogates for two of the state’s leading politicians, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, exchanged fusillades of harsh words as the two vied for political command of the anti-gun movement.
It might have had something to do with the fact that Newsom was already running for governor and de León was earnestly looking for another rung on the political ladder. He announced this week that he’s running for the U.S. Senate.
The new gun laws enhanced California’s status, for better or worse, of having the nation’s tightest restrictions on the purchase and use of firearms.
However, what politicians and voters, through a Newsom-sponsored ballot measure, wrought last year didn’t really cut down on the number of guns.
As usual with such actions, it encouraged Californians to buy even more guns and stock up on ammunition before the new rules took effect.
Californians have been legally adding about 1.5 million firearms to their personal arsenals each year, according to FBI and state Department of Justice data. A visitor to one of the state’s many gun shows will find patrons emerging with cases of ammunition to counter anticipated ammo rules.
As usual, too, the new laws were enacted on the assertion that they would reduce gun violence by preventing those inclined to use weapons to injure or threaten from obtaining them.
However, the wave of legal purchases – and simple logic – tell us that new gun laws have their greatest effect on law-abiding shooters, not those bent on criminal or violent misuse. Gang members and other gun criminals, by their nature, don’t make legal purchases. Rather, they acquire weapons and ammo surreptitiously, in ways that don’t leave paper trails of ownership.
Having enacted so many new gun laws last year, state legislators were hard put to find new restrictions to pass this year. Only a handful of relatively minor new gun laws were passed and signed by Brown. One of them induces head-scratching bewilderment.
Assembly Bill 424, by Democratic Assemblyman Kevin McCarty of Sacramento, removes the power of local school authorities to allow someone to legally carry a gun on school grounds.
It’s aimed at a tiny number of schools where teachers with training and valid concealed-weapons permits have been allowed to carry guns, so that they can protect their students in the horrific event of a school shooting incident.
With the new law, any deranged person bent on slaughtering children will now know for certain there will be no armed resistance inside school grounds.
While we ponder the logic of AB 424, we should consider another bill Brown signed, Senate Bill 620 by Sen. Steven Bradford, a Democrat from Gardena.
It repeals the long-standing Penal Code section that requires extra years behind bars for anyone using a gun to commit a crime and leaves such “enhancements” to the future discretion of judges.
So on one hand Brown and the Legislature make it more difficult for a teacher to protect children against gun-wielding criminals, while on the other they reduce potential penalties for gun-wielding criminals.
CALmatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how California’s Capitol works and why it matters. For more stories by Dan Walters, go to calmatters.org/articles/author/dan-walters. Dan Walters: firstname.lastname@example.org