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California Gov. Jerry Brown surprised both sides of the gun-rights question when he vetoed a number of anti-rights bills. Unfortunately, he failed to veto all of the bad gun bills that made it to his desk this year – only the worst ones.
Among the dozens of firearms and hunting-related bills proposed in the California Legislature this year, a total of 20 made it to the governor’s desk. Of those, Gov. Brown signed 13 and vetoed 7. The bills he vetoed were some of the worst we’ve seen passed anywhere this year, and would have stacked onto some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. They included a bill that would have reclassified as “assault weapons,” any centerfire, semi-auto rifle capable of accepting a removable magazine – banning future sales and requiring that owners of those already in circulation register them.
This bill again proves the lie that the anti-rights crowd is only interested in restricting “weapons of war” and “military-grade hardware.” Not only did the bill do away with the various cosmetic “military feature” tests typical of “assault weapon” bans, it abandoned all pretense that crime reduction is a motivating factor in passing these laws. Of the guns affected by this ban, virtually none has been used in a serious crime in the past 50 years – if ever. This was a case of hoplophobes trying to eliminate anything they consider potentially scary and, in essence, admitting that they’re scared of virtually everything. Thankfully, Brown saw that the bill would burden the innocent while providing no additional safety to the people of California.
Another vetoed bill would have restricted the resale of currently owned handguns that are not included on the California approved handgun roster. More proof that gun control proponents’ actions are based in irrational fears rather than any sort of reasonable concerns for public safety. This bill originally would have completely banned resale of these guns, but it was amended to limit such transfers to no more than two per year.
The governor also vetoed a bill that would have created exemptions in the law that forbids local jurisdictions from writing their own gun laws. That law was put in place to create a uniform state law as opposed to the patchwork of laws that arises from local jurisdictions creating a crazy-quilt of law that would make it virtually impossible for a gun owner to go about his business without transgressing some local ordinance – often resulting in serious consequences for the gun owner.
The other four bills vetoed by the governor included one that would have made a criminal of anyone who failed to report the theft of a firearm within seven days, a bill that would have effectively banned gun shows at the Cow Palace event center, a bill that was apparently aimed at restricting a revolving rifle because it is capable of firing 410 gauge shotgun shells and a bill that would have added people convicted of DUI offenses or minor marijuana crimes to the list of those permanently barred from firearm possession.
Bills the governor didn’t veto are not all unicorns and rainbows, though. Among those was a bill signed early in the legislative session as an “emergency” measure that raided a special fund derived from gun buyer background-check fees. That move is currently in litigation by the NRA as an invalid tax on gun owners.
The bill that garnered the most attention this session was AB 711, which bans the use of traditional lead-based ammunition for hunting statewide. This ill-conceived piece of legislation is supposed to help save condors, but the evidence shows that it ignores the most serious threats to the giant birds while persecuting shooters and hunters. The law isn’t scheduled to go into effect until July of 2015. This new law is complicated by the fact that many of the alternatives to lead-based bullets are at risk of being declared illegal under the 1986 federal armor-piercing bullet ban.
The rest of the bills the governor signed will go into effect on Jan. 1, 2014, and they include three separate bills dealing with “safe storage” aimed primarily at keeping guns locked up when children or prohibited persons might be able to get at them. The “safe storage” laws ignore the reality that, if I’m not concerned enough for my child’s life to take reasonable precautions, how is a law going to make a difference? The old adage remains true: You can’t fix stupid. Trying to fix stupid with legislation looks just as stupid. Litigation is already under way regarding the constitutionality of laws that effectively limit a person’s access to their legally owned firearms.
Another issue addressed with multiple bills seems to have been inspired by too much time watching “The Sopranos.” They deal with licensed therapists hearing a client make a credible threat to harm someone. One bill requires therapists to report such threats within 24 hours, while another increases the proscription from firearms for making such a threat from the current six months to a whopping five years. There is some significant concern as to how these laws will impact client relations and that they might discourage people from seeking help or being completely open with their therapist.
There is some legal wrangling going on over the meaning of AB 48, which is supposed to stop people from constructing “large capacity” magazines from parts kits, not to mention questions about the constitutionality of the current restrictions on these magazines. This, too, will probably have to be settled by the courts.
Future purchasers of any firearms will have to present a valid Firearm Safety Certificate, and companies that acquire “assault weapons” permits will have to include the names and personal information of the specific employees who will be in possession of these items.
Gov. Brown also signed legislation banning the trapping or commerce in bobcats from the area around Joshua Tree National Park, a bill permitting persons who become prohibited from possessing firearms due to indictments or restraining orders to transfer their firearms to a licensed dealer for safekeeping until the matter is resolved and one requiring dealers to provide customers with copies of their Dealer’s Record of Sale paperwork.
Some of these new laws are going to be problematic and costly, and there will doubtlessly be some unintended consequences develop as a result of their adoption, but the damage is not as bad as it could have been. It looks like Brown recognized how costly and ineffective the worst of the bills would be and so spared the state the pain and expense.
What this legislative session demonstrates most clearly, though, is the irrational and insatiable agenda of gun-control zealots. California has already proven that gun control doesn’t work, but proponents keep pushing more and more restrictive laws – either in a futile effort to control human behavior by restricting objects, or out of irrational fear of those objects. Either way, the result is always punishment of the law-abiding with no enhancement of public safety. That’s just stupid.