Improving California Gun Safety

Improving California Gun Safety
A demonstration was organized by Teens For Gun Reform, an organization created by students in the Washington D.C. area, in the wake of the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Photo by Lorie Shaull via Flickr Creative Commons

Gun violence makes all our communities less safe. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, California had the highest firearm death rate in the United States. Over the past 30 years, California showed the country that it is possible to pass gun safety and violence prevention laws.

In doing so, California significantly decreased all gun-related deaths—mass shootings, suicides and homicides.1,2 California is now one of the safest states in the United States in regard to gun-related injuries and death.

Numerous studies have shown that harsher punishments, longer incarceration times and the death penalty have not been able to prevent or deter future gun violence.3

To decrease gun violence nationwide, on June 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed adding a 28th amendment to the U.S. Constitution.1 The amendment would enshrine gun safety laws throughout the nation similar to the laws currently in place in California. Numerous polls suggest that the proposed measures are broadly supported by the general public.4

Newsom’s 28th Amendment would install these publicly supported laws throughout the nation. The following measures proposed in the amendment are already law in California1:

  • Raising the federal minimum age to purchase a firearm from 18 to 21
  • Mandating universal background checks to prevent truly dangerous people from purchasing a gun that could be used in a crime
  • Instituting a reasonable waiting period for all gun purchases
  • Barring civilian purchases of assault weapons, which serve no other purpose than to kill as many people as possible in a short amount of time (These are weapons of war our nation’s founders never foresaw.)

The national organization Brady United, along with the state organization Brady of California, advocates for policies and laws that support gun safety and prevent gun violence.

As of June 10, Brady United had not issued a formal response regarding Gov. Newsom’s 28th Amendment proposal. In the past, the nationwide Brady organization has supported similar measures. The Brady organization works to get results, but the likelihood of passing Newsom’s 28th Amendment in the current political environment is zero.

People are trying to decide if this is another episode of Newsom leading from the front, as he did with gay marriage, or a instance of him grandstanding and self-promoting.

There are basically two ways to amend the U.S. Constitution: two-thirds of both houses in Congress pass the amendment or two-thirds of the state legislatures call for an Article V National Convention to write an amendment. In either case, afterward there would need to be ratification by three-fourths (38) of the state legislatures or by conventions in three-fourths (38) of the states.

Newsom is proposing that the California Assembly and Senate bring forth a resolution for an Article V National Convention to write the 28th Amendment with gun safety proposals.5

The U.S. Constitution was written in 1787, ratified in 1788 and has been operable since 1789. Since 1789, there have been more than 11,000 amendments proposed, but only 27 amendments added.6 Although the chance of passage is low, proposing the 28th Amendment might enhance American consciousness of the ongoing issues of gun safety.

Rather than showboating, the Brady California organization held an Advocacy Week June 5–10. Members of local Brady California chapters held video meetings with their state representatives.

The local Brady chapter, Enough Gun Violence/Brady Greater Fresno (EGV/BGF), is an interfaith, nonpartisan, multiracial, grassroots, volunteer community organization that works to eliminate gun violence. EGV/BGF became a Brady chapter in March 2023.

During Advocacy Week, members of EGV/BGF met electronically with legislators from the Central Valley encouraging them to pass SB 2, SB 241, SB 452, AB 1089 and AB 28. These bills would help to make California’s communities safer.

All these bills have passed in their house of origin and are now in the other house.

SB 2 would revise California’s current concealed carry law to conform to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Bruen case.6 The bill identifies statewide eligibility standards (e.g., training, not at risk of harming self/others) rather than perceived need for an individual to receive a concealed weapons license.

SB 241 addresses training for gun dealers and their employees to prevent illegal sales of guns.7 All legitimate gun dealers have a federal firearms license, but currently there is minimal training/oversight on preventing illegal sales.

SB 241 would require that firearm retailers and their employees complete regular training created and overseen by the state’s Department of Justice. This training would show gun dealers how to prevent illegal sales, reduce the likelihood of straw purchases and decrease sales to people who seem to be a risk to others or themselves.

The bill should reduce theft and burglary and help keep guns out of the hands of people who should not have guns and thus decrease gun violence.

SB 452 would require all new semiautomatic handguns (whether a new or older model) sold in California to have microstamping technology, which imprints a unique code onto a bullet casing when a gun is fired. That code allows law enforcement to trace a bullet to a specific firearm.8

AB 1089 would close a loophole by limiting ghost gun manufacturing using 3D printers.9 Ghost guns, which have no identification numbers that can be used to trace ownership, are increasingly being used in the commission of crimes.

Due to changes in the law, it is now more difficult to purchase ghost guns. To get around the law, 3D printers are being used to produce ghost guns. AB 1089 would regulate ghost guns and prohibit unlicensed (and currently unregulated) manufacturers from using 3D printers and milling machines to manufacture ghost guns.

AB 28 would place an 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition.10 It would establish the Gun Violence Prevention, Healing and Recovery Fund, which would help California comprehensively respond to the public health, safety and equity crisis of gun violence.

Gun violence is the leading cause of death for American children today. The excise tax would help fund community violence interruption and prevention programs (such as Advance Peace in Fresno), protect and heal survivors, and improve the implementation and coordination of gun violence prevention throughout the state.

Since 2022, the motto of EGV/BGF has been, “You can’t do everything, but you can do something.”

Footnotes:

  1. www.gov.ca.gov/2023/06/08/28th-amendment/
  2. www.gov.ca.gov/2022/06/02/fact-sheet-californias-gun-safety-policies-save-lives-provide-model-for-a-nation-seeking-solutions/
  3. www.ojp.gov/pdffiles1/nij/247350.pdf
  4. www.pewresearch.org/short-reads/2021/09/13/key-facts-about-americans-and-guns/
  5. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R42589/15#:~:text=
  6. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB2 (text of SB 2)
  7. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB241 (text of SB 241)
  8. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB452 (text of SB 452)
  9. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240 (text of AB 1089)
  10. https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240AB28 (text of AB 28)

Author

  • Jim Mendez

    Jim Mendez came to Fresno in 1977 for his medical residency training at what was then called the Valley Medical Center. He stayed to practice medicine and raise a family. He is now a retired physician and a community activist.

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Homer Gee Greene Jr
Homer Gee Greene Jr
8 months ago

An extremely informative article.

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