Debate over gun-control laws grips CA


GunsA wave of violence, legislation and litigation fueled the latest acrimonious phase of the debate about guns in California. While the issue had risen near the top of the political agenda following shootings that intensified the immigration debate, an apparently close call with mass bloodshed at the Los Angeles gay pride parade has sharpened the dispute around firearms even further. 

“The early morning arrest in Santa Monica of James Wesley Howell, 20, of Jeffersonville, came just a few hours after at least 50 people were shot and killed in a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, though police said they had found no evidence of a connection between the events,” the Associated Press reported. “The L.A. Pride event continued as usual, albeit with increased security. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced the arrest at the start of the parade and struck a defiant tone.”

Rules and rulings

In Sacramento, that tone collided with heated opposition to a new slate of measures designed to pick away at Californians’ market access to guns and ammunition. In a harsh session, “divided California state lawmakers advanced a dozen gun-control bills, including proposals to outlaw the sale of semiautomatic rifles with easily detachable magazines,” the Los Angeles Times noted. First introduced in the wake of the December terror attack in San Bernardino, the mass shooting of scores of people in Orlando “was invoked over and over Tuesday by Democrats as state legislative committees heard testimony before voting to send bills to the floor for votes,” the paper added. 

The atmosphere surrounding that legislation was charged even more highly by a Federal Appeals Court ruling this month keeping sharp restrictions in place around so-called concealed carry in California. “The 7-4 decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit reverses a 2014 ruling from its three-judge panel, which had struck down restrictions imposed by two California counties based on state law,” USA Today reported.

“California’s law, like those in eight other states and the District of Columbia, generally requires citizens to show ‘good cause’ before being granted a concealed-carry license. In other states, licenses are issued to most citizens without felony convictions who are not considered dangerous or mentally unstable.”

Congressional Democrats have faced a much higher hurdle to passing gun regulations than their fellow party members in Sacramento. “House Democrats with limited ability to influence the congressional agenda tried for the dozenth time Tuesday to force a gun-control vote,” as the Times reported separately. “Lawmakers used a procedural move in an attempt to get their colleagues to vote to prevent people on the FBI’s terrorist watch list from being able to purchase a gun. Given Republican control of Congress and a years-long logjam on anything related to guns, the push was symbolic.”

“But it was the second emotional and tense moment for Democrats who have repeatedly pushed for the provision and other changes to gun laws in the months since Rep. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and other California members first stalled House floor action in the days after the San Bernardino shooting in an effort to raise the same issue.”

From morality to money

The root of the controversy over gun control has increasingly shifted onto not just moral but more deeply philosophical grounds, with proponents of tighter strictures thinking of firearms more abstractly, akin to contagious diseases, hazardous building conditions, and other generalized risks. “Gun violence is one of the top public health problems in the nation,” Boston University epidemiologist Michael Siegel argued to Wired. “If you’re in an urban area and African American, it’s probably the number one public health problem you’re going to face.”

Siegel and other such analysts cheered Sacramento’s recent passage of a $5 million allocation toward a new California Firearm Violence Research Center. The funding, according to Wired, will “train a new crop of researchers, and get one of the best gun violence data sets out there.” UC Davis violence-prevention researcher Garen Wintemute linked up with sate Sen. Lois Wolk, D-Davis, to parse California’s copious amount of data around violence and guns, examining “the ways it has changed over time as policies shifted.”

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