California’s newly proposed gun laws would:
- Ban the possession of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds
- Prevent the future sale, purchase, manufacture, importation, or transfer of any firearms that can accept detachable magazines
- Close the "bullet button" loophole by banning tools that allow the quick changing of gun magazines
- Regulate ammunition sales like the state regulates gun sales. Ammunition dealers would need to be licensed and anyone buying from them would need to obtain a permit and complete a background check.
- Create a 5-cent tax on each bullet purchased, for the purpose of funding crime prevention
- Prevent felons and other adults barred from gun ownership from living in a house that contains any guns
- Prohibit the loaning or sale of a firearm between people who know each other personally
- Take steps to phase out legal possession of assault weapons that were purchased before California outlawed their sale
- Require all firearms owners to take an hours-long gun safety course every year, similar to what the state now requires for obtaining a concealed weapon permit
- Require gun owners to purchase insurance to cover damage they may inflict
- Require CalPERS and CalSTRS, two of the nation's largest pension funds, to divest from companies that make, sell, or market firearms or ammunition
California has already enacted some of the nation’s strictest gun control laws, partly due to its experience with a Sandy-Hook-style massacre: In 1989, a mentally unstable ex-con opened fire with an AK-47-style assault rifle on an elementary school playground in Stockton, killing five schoolchildren and wounding 28 others. The shooting contributed to the passage that year of California’s assault weapons ban.
The massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, has caused many people, including people at the White House, to say that this is not the day to talk about gun policy. This day is obviously for mourning the dead, but I don’t understand why we shouldn’t talk about the conditions that lead to these sorts of shootings. I wrote about this issue in the current issue of The Atlantic (you can read the story here), and I want to quickly make a few points drawn from that longer article.
1) This is a gun country. We are saturated with guns. There are as many as 300 million guns in circulation today (the majority owned legally, but many not) and more than 4 million new guns come onto the market each year. To talk about eradicating guns, especially given what the Supreme Court has said about the individual right to gun-ownership, is futile.
2) There are, however, some gun control laws that could be strengthened. The so-called gun-show loophole (which is not a loophole at all — 40 percent of all guns sold in America legally are sold without benefit of a federal background check) should be closed. Background checks are no panacea — many of our country’s recent mass-shooters had no previous criminal records, and had not been previously adjudicated mentally ill — but they would certainly stop some people from buying weapons.
The nation, and its political leaders, cannot accept mass shootings as simply a routine part of American life. At least 12 innocent people were killed Friday at a suburban movie theater in Aurora, Colo., the latest in a procession of attacks by disturbed gunmen — a list that includes the 1999 massacre in Columbine, barely a half-hour away from the site of the latest shooting.
Each incident provokes a now-predictable reaction: a round of hand-wringing — followed by nothing. The most obvious preventive measure, tighter gun control laws, has been taken off the table. Both political parties — the Republicans by inclination, the Democrats by calculation — refuse to consider stricter rules. And federal courts have been increasingly unfriendly to existing gun control laws.
But if political leaders can’t enact common-sense gun limits, they have an obligation to come up with an alternative strategy to prevent such horrifying acts. An answer may lie in more monitoring of ammunition and military equipment purchases, more aggressive mental health intervention, or more sophisticated policing methods. The portrait of the suspect in Friday’s shooting, James Holmes, 24, is still coming into focus. But he was apparently able to acquire a weapon, ammunition, a smoke device, a bulletproof vest, and a gas mask.
The worst mass shooting in U.S. history has sparked a renewed debate about gun control laws in the country.
James Holmes, a 24 year old student at the University of Colorado Medical School was detained Friday following the shooting of 70 people inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo. Twelve people were killed in the attack, which was carried out with an assault rifle, a shotgun and a pair of Glock pistols at the midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Not much is yet known about Holmes, but investigations into the weapons he owns show that he purchased them legally. He purchased the four guns at local shops, and bought more than 6,000 rounds of ammunition on the Internet in the past 60 days, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said.
“All the ammunition he possessed, he possessed legally, all the weapons he possessed, he possessed legally, all the clips he possessed, he possessed legally,” Oates said. As far as investigators know now, Holmes had a clean background, with the exception of a single traffic ticket.
The right to bear arms is a constitutionally protected right in America, and in Colorado, the laws aren’t very strict. Background checks are required for purchases at gun shows, under an initiative voted into law after the Columbine shootings in 2000. However, there is no ban on assault weapons or high capacity ammunition clips. Registration and gun owner licenses aren’t required, and background checks for online sales aren’t required.
We should not have let the assault weapons ban expire. This incident is a perfect example of why.