Wins and losses in latest CA gun control battles

Wins and losses in latest CA gun control battles

gun-declaration_s640x427Gun control laws in the state of California have entered into a period of flux.

Despite a reputation for exceptionally strict gun measures, the regulatory landscape has become a mixed bag. Advocates of tighter restrictions and advocates of looser ones have won some key battles and lost others — with the outcome of still other clashes undetermined.

A new Second Amendment struggle

Late last month, for instance, a judge ruled against California’s mandatory 10-day waiting period for gun sales, which extended to prior and licensed owners. U.S. District Judge Anthony W. Ishii, a Bill Clinton appointee, held in Silvester v. Harris that the waiting period, codified in sections 26815(a) and 27540(a) of the California Penal Code, unconstitutionally burdened the gun rights of those owners. “He noted that all firearms purchasers, including second- and third-time buyers, must pass a state background check of their criminal and mental-health records, but said it was unreasonable to make gun owners wait the full 10 days to acquire another weapon,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle.

This holding was narrow. The plaintiffs did not argue that California’s rigorous background check system was unconstitutional. Rather, they simply contended that the 10-day waiting period was “arbitrary and/or substantially overbroad,” as Eugene Volokh summarized the case.

Nevertheless, the ruling’s potential impact on California’s myriad other gun control regulations will very likely send Silvester v. Harris to higher courts on appeal. And against the backdrop of the other closely-fought gun measures at stake in California, its significance has been heightened.

A flurry of activity in Sacramento

Controversy has intensified, for instance, around AB1014, a bill designed to secure “gun restraining orders” against individuals deemed dangerous by a judge acting on a petition by a gun possessor’s family member or by law enforcement. The bill was authored in the wake of the Isla Vista shooting by Assembly members Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, and Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara. Support for the legislation was strong, with many in Sacramento favoring both the policy and the optics of a visible reaction to the shooting.

AB1014 passed easily. But critics have begun to pressure Gov. Jerry Brown, who has previously blocked some increased gun controls, for another veto. Assemblyman Tom Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, warned that the bill would confer sweeping power on “virtual strangers,” rather than just the family members of disturbed persons.

But in a bigger indication of the alarm surrounding the restraining order scheme, the Liberal Gun Owners Association recently voiced its opposition to Gov. Brown. In a letter to the governor, association president Eric Wooten insisted that AB1014 would discourage gun owners from seeking mental health care, while significantly burdening a justice system already struggling to handle domestic violence cases. “I firmly believe if you consider the larger ramifications of AB1014 you will veto this dangerous bill,” he wrote.

At the same time, however, 69 California mayors — including the mayors of Los Angeles, Sacramento and San Francisco — wrote Brown expressing their strong support for the bill. “The standards for issuing a GVRO in AB1014 are appropriately rigorous to ensure that gun rights are not violated,” the mayors wrote, arguing that courts will carefully consider whether the person has a dangerous background. “The bill requires courts to consider whether the person has been violent or made threats of violence, whether they have violated other protective orders, and whether they have had criminal convictions. And the bill advises courts to consider past unlawful use of guns, prior arrests, and other evidence of an increased risk of violence.”

Kevin de Leon takes center stage

Another piece of gun control legislation on Gov. Brown’s desk promises even more sweeping restrictions. SB808, which would crack down on 3D-printed firearms, is authored by state Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, the Senate’s incoming President Pro Tem. reports that SB808 “would require a state Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms background check and authorization before assembling a firearm in the home of a state resident,” as well as requiring in-home gunmakers to prove the activity would not violate city or county ordinances. Additionally, the bill would require unlicensed in-home gunmakers to mark their firearms with serial numbers kept on file by the Department of Justice.

SB808 has accumulated special importance for de Leon, whose push for multiple gun control measures encountered stiff opposition this year. In a sign of just how fluid the regulatory situation has become in Sacramento, Brown rebuffed de Leon’s recent attempt to require permitting and background checks for any buyer of bullets, and the Assembly sank the legislation he crafted in the hopes of imposing new regulations on the sale of ammunition.

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