Crazy in California? You bet. New York State recently passed tough, new gun laws, though they already had some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. Not to be outdone, California — which also has strict gun laws — is proposing even tougher new gun laws than New York passed. Undoubtedly, this will please some gun control advocates, and raise the ire of gun-rights advocates.
If these laws are passed, and subsequently challenged in court, many would not likely be upheld as constitutional. Even more disheartening is that none of the proposed laws seek to address any underlying causes of gun violence. California’s new gun laws, if passed, will include:
1. Ban all Semi-Automatic Rifles That Accept Detachable Magazines:
California's current assault weapons ban restricts so-called "assault rifles," based on cosmetic features. The new laws would ban all semi-automatic rifles regardless of features.
2. Ban Possession of High-Capacity Magazines:
California law bans the transfer, but not possession, of magazines that can hold over ten bullets. It is currently legal to buy the constituent parts and assemble magazines themselves. The new law would make this illegal.
3. Require Yearly Safety Certificate:
This provision would require all handgun owners obtain a safety certificate every year, rather than the every-five-years requirement for purchases of new handguns. Some states require a safety course if handgun owners apply for a license to carry the handgun concealed (CCW). California's law would require all handgun owners, regardless of CCW, meaning it would apply even if they only possess their handgun in their residence for home defense.
4. Universal Registration of All Guns:
The law would create "ownership records consistently across-the-board, ensuring all firearms are recorded" so that the background check system can prevent criminals from getting guns. Gun registration has been used later for the purpose of confiscation, even in the United States.
5. Require Background Checks on All Ammunition Purchases:
This provision would require anyone wishing to buy ammunition to first get a permit by passing a "full and complete" background check, as Los Angeles and Sacramento already do.
6. Regulating Gun Loans:
This would prevent unregulated gun loans, with some exceptions (like hunting), in order to keep weapons from those who haven't passed background checks.
7. Prevent Prohibited Individuals From Living in Homes With Guns:
California's Armed Persons Prohibition (APP) database lists people who can't legally own weapons, such as felons and those adjudicated mentally ill under state law. This addition would prevent people on the list from living in a house (even family member's homes) that has a gun.
8. Crack Down on People Who Can't Own Guns Legally but do Anyway:
Currently, 19,700 people who are on the APP list own guns. Police estimate that these people own roughly 39,000 firearms. This new law would authorize additional funding to enforce the law in this area.
9. Ban Shotgun-Rifle Combinations:
It would ban this class of class of weapon, which are usually single-shot rifles, which are not at all like semi-automatic rifles or so-called "assault rifles."
California's new laws, if passed, would likely face legal challenge by groups such as Responsible Citizens of California. If challenged in court, many of these provisions would likely not remain upheld based on the Court's previous rulings that weapons "in common use at the time" (p.55) are constitutionally protected arms. The ammunition provision is particularly interesting; the Court has ruled the regulations that render firearm useless for self-defense are not constitutional. This ruling was aimed at trigger locks, not ammunition specifically, but the principal may apply since a gun without ammunition is useless for self-defense, the Second Amendment's "core lawful purpose of self-defense" (p.58). The court adds: "A statute which, under the pretence of regulating, amounts to a destruction of the right, or which requires arms to be so borne as to render them wholly useless for the purpose of defense, would be clearly unconstitutional" (p.57). The Court also ruled that the Second Amendment has "no interest-balancing" provision. This means that the state would not be justified in restricting purchase of ammunition (necessary to use a gun for self-defense) by reason of balancing the state's interest in public safety.
In addition to the potential legal challenge, what is disappointing about California's decision to pursue even stricter gun laws than they currently have is that none of these proposals address any of the underlying causes of violence. Gang violence is among the major underlying causes — accounting for "an average of 48% of violent crime in most jurisdictions, up to 90% in some jurisdictions." It's a safe bet some of the high rate jurisdictions are in California. Drug abuse is also a major predictor of violence. These two factors are related via the drug trade, which is heavily stepped in California through the border. Instead of addressing the root causes, California is opting for 'more of the same' laws they already have, while further eroding honest citizen's rights and ability for personal self-defense.