CA gun laws back in crosshairs

hand gunThe Golden State’s strict approach to gun control has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the San Bernardino shootings.

Recent curbs on access to firearms and limitations on certain gun features appeared to have made little or no impact on the terrorists’ ability to obtain and use their arsenal. The closure of the so-called “gun show loophole,” for instance, didn’t stop legal guns from illegally winding up in their hands. Enrique Marquez, neighbor of killer Syed Rizwan Farook, “bought the two semiautomatic rifles legally, authorities say. But the weapons were later given to Farook without a recording by a federally licensed firearms dealer, as required under California law,” the Los Angeles Times reported.

California’s special protections against arming the mentally unwell did not come into play either. “The FBI said Farook legally bought the two handguns used in the attack — purchases that would have required a background check. And there is no indication he or Malik had any criminal record or history of mental illness that would have triggered California’s unique law allowing authorities to seize weapons from those who aren’t allowed to own them,” noted ABC News.

Golden State gun laws fell short of expectations in another way as well. “While California laws typically forbid the sale and possession of rifles of the sort used by the shooters, the assault-style rifles in Wednesday’s attack had a button mechanism to release their ammunition magazines, which made them legal to possess in California — an exception sometimes referred to as the ‘bullet button loophole,'” according to the Huffington Post. ” Some gun makers in California specialize in manufacturing assault-style rifles that comply with California state law,” added HuffPost. “But even if the bullet button loophole did not exist and possessing assault-style rifles of any kind had been illegal from the get-go, the shooters could have saved themselves the trouble of trying to modify their weapons by simply traveling to a different state.”

Across state lines

That dynamic quickly became a point of contention between California and Arizona officials. In France for the Paris climate talks, Gov. Jerry Brown slammed Nevada and Arizona lawmakers for creating a “gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk” with “wide open” gun laws. “Because guns used in the attack were purchased legally in California, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey immediately shot back, calling Brown’s comments an ‘out of bounds’ attempt ‘to politicize a tragedy,'” the Phoenix New Times noted. “Not only will we be ignoring Brown’s advice, but I call on him to retract his incredibly thoughtless and ill-advised comments,” said Ducey. Although the number of so-called “crime guns” flowing into California from neighboring states has doubled in a decade, “the vast majority of guns used to commit crimes in California originate in the state,” the Huffington Post observed.

Constituencies on both sides of the gun debate have responded true to type. While supporters of light or moderate restrictions suggested that the facts of the San Bernardino shootings underscored the fruitlessness of tougher rules, advocates of stronger gun controls pushed for more federal regulations. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., told PBS that “we need a national gun law so that there is no thought that even though one state may have good laws you can buy guns in another place.”

Self defense

Meanwhile, gun purchases have risen among Southern California residents themselves. “As politicians and gun-control advocates have seized on the San Bernardino shooting as a reason to restrict firearm access, many of those on the front lines of the tragedy are seeking to arm themselves,” the Times reported.

“San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Adam Cervantes said 75 applications for concealed-weapons permits were submitted last weekend, about seven times the department’s normal application volume. Orange County Sheriff’s Department Lt. Jeff Hallock said his office saw 130 applications for concealed-weapons permits last weekend, up from the roughly 30 applications that typically come in.”

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