California cities lead the way in gun control laws
California lawmakers have passed some of the nation’s strongest gun reform laws, but dozens of communities across the state have even tougher measures in place.
As California experiences three mass shootings that have killed at least 24 people in eight days, there are calls in the state Legislature for the Democratic supermajority to follow suit and enact even stricter gun regulations.
The recent killings have shaken residents of the Golden State, from the Los Angeles suburb known as America’s first “suburban Chinatown” to a small farming town in the Central Valley and a coastal community in the Bay Area.
On January 16, six people, including a young mother with a child, were shot in the head by a gunman in a home in Geshen. Another gunman opened fire Jan. 21 at a popular ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park on Lunar New Year’s Eve, killing 11 people. Less than 48 hours later, another man targeted two mushroom farms in Half Moon Bay, killing 7 people.
At a press conference Tuesday in Half Moon Bay, Sen. Josh Becker, D-San Mateo, praised state leaders for pursuing progressive policies to curb gun violence. However, he added: “When seven people die – innocent people in our community – that seems like a small amount.”
“Until we get congressional Republicans to act at the federal level, we have to go back to the drawing board in California and look at every aspect of the process — how you get a gun, how you store a gun, how we enforce red flag laws, how we track and We are making weapons manufacturers responsible,” he said. “We owe it to these bereaved families and to the people of this state and country.”
Calls like Becker’s come in California as 2023 begins its deadliest month for mass shootings in recent memory. But overall, the state ranks 37% below the national average for gun deaths, according to the Giffords Law Center. Report for 2019 touted by Gov. Gavin Newsom, found that gun deaths in California dropped 55% from 1993 to 2017 as lawmakers in Sacramento began to address gun violence with new laws.
“Gun safety is working,” Newsom said Tuesday. “But we can’t do it alone.”
In recent years, advocates have worked with California cities and counties to pass strict gun ordinances in hopes of gaining momentum at the state level. Historically, progressive policies adopted at the local level have helped pave the way for statewide reforms.
Some local regulations that are stricter than current state laws include those that require firearms dealers to videotape sales transactions, prohibit gun dealers from operating in “sensitive areas” and impose stricter rules on safe gun storage.
Alison Anderman, senior counsel and director of local policy at the Giffords Law Center, said these are all areas California lawmakers can look to strengthen state law.
“California is one of the few states where the gun lobby has failed to convince state lawmakers to take gun regulation authority away from local jurisdictions,” Anderman said. “Because of this, localities in California have broad authority to enact any gun laws they deem necessary to keep their communities safe.”
But raising these issues at the state level could too to attract serious legal problems as the laws already in place are threatened. Last June, the Supreme Court struck down New York’s concealed carry law and called for a review of other states’ gun laws, including California’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“Whatever legislative decisions we make to end the violence will ultimately be determined by perhaps the most conservative Supreme Court we’ve known in a century,” said Greg Woods, a professor at San Jose State’s Department of Justice Studies.
Here are some of the major gun control bills currently being proposed by California lawmakers and a list of local regulations that could be the next frontier for gun reform in the state.
California cities and counties have stricter laws
Video sales: It’s meant to be to prevent someone from purchasing a gun for another person who is prohibited from owning a firearm, an illegal practice known as a straw purchase. Several Bay Area cities have passed the ordinance, including the cities of San Francisco and San Jose. Walmart — the nation’s largest gun seller — began voluntarily videotaping gun sales in 2008.
No dealers in “Sensitive areas”: These rules prohibit gun dealers from operating in certain areas of the city, such as near schools or parks where children and families are frequent. More than two dozen California jurisdictions have created these zones, including Alameda, Palo Alto and Santa Cruz counties. The Alameda County measure survived a challenge in federal court in 2017.
Strict storage rules: State law imposes a broad requirements for residents and gun dealers to keep their firearms safe. But dozens of settlements have adopted regulations that make them more protected against theft. For example, pTate’s law requires all firearms sold or transferred in California to be equipped with security locks or be accompanied by proof that the buyer has a safe. But there is no universal requirement for the owners of their use. City of Davis last year made a decision requiring all firearms owners to store their firearms in a locked container or use a safety device when not in use.
Liability insurance: San Jose became the first city in the country to require gun owners to carry liability insurance and pay $25 to a nonprofit to help cover the cost of gun violence in the city. The rules, which were challenged in court, were designed to encourage safer gun ownership after a 2019 mass shooting at a Gilroy garlic festival left three people dead, and another shooting at a San Jose train station in 2021 took the lives of 10 people. Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, proposed a bill last year to expand that mandate statewide, but it stalled in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Gun control bills proposed by state lawmakers
- Updated concealed carry allows you to: Sen. Anthony Portantino, D-La Cañada Flintridge, will make a second attempt to strengthen California’s concealed carry law after the US Supreme Court struck down parts of it in June 2022. The court’s decision means the state no more allowed to ask allow applicants to show a “good reason” for carrying a gun in public. Portantino, Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta tried last year to pass an emergency measure that would strengthen the state law. This almost succeeded in the last hours of the session.
- Warning labels, stiffer penalties for non-production weapons: Skinner’s bill would require guns sold, transferred or manufactured in California to carry a warning label. Another measure by Assemblyman Freddy Rodriguez, D-Pomona, would try to reduce the number of “ghost guns” by making it a felony to carry a firearm with a serial number that has been altered or removed.
- Changes related to the taxation of weapons and ammunition, the “Do not sell list”: Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, R-Woodland Hills, has introduced a three-bill package of gun control measures, with one measure taxing firearms and ammunition in California. Another would allow residents to add their own names to the state’s “Do Not Sell List,” which restricts gun sales to certain people. Gabriel’s office said the bill aims to curb suicides and mass shootings by preventing people with mental illness from obtaining guns.
- Tougher possession rules for domestic violence offenders: Another bill from Gabriel would make it more difficult for people at risk of domestic violence to purchase guns. Residents are currently prohibited from owning or buying guns while the restraining order is in place. The proposal would extend that period to three years, unless a court decides that the person does not pose a threat to public safety.