California Shootings: Gun Control Issues & Laws


“When there is a jumble of laws and seriously inconsistent protections between different states, obviously vulnerabilities emerge that can affect any community.” Thus Senator Alex Padilla of California as he rightly pointed to the different rules for acquiring firearms in light of four very recent shootings in the Golden State. California is one of the states that imposes limits on the possession of firearms, but nevertheless it is in a little different situation from other parts of the country. Too many people fall victim to firearms because of the ease of their possession.

California And Other Liberal States

In California and other liberal states, the purchase of firearms is much more difficult than in conservative states, but current events show that this is not enough to contain massacres and shootings. State laws help protect against the indiscriminate use of firearms, in fact the Golden State has one of the lowest mortality rates in the Union: the Center for Disease Control and Prevention places California in 43rd place among the 50 states, with 8.5 deaths from firearms for every 100,000 people. In the case of Texas it is 13.7, and Mississippi is in first place with 26 deaths for every 100,000 inhabitants. The California Policy Institute, a nonpartisan organization, informs us that gun deaths in California from 2019 to 2021 are below the US average and that compared to other states, citizens of the Golden State are in the safest from tragedies caused by firearms.

However, the very recent shootings have caused consternation that despite adequate laws, at least as far as the American situation is concerned, more needs to be done, especially when you consider the four shootings in the last few days. Two of these occurred in Southern California, one in Monterey Park, and the other in Los Angeles, two cities 10 miles apart. Two other shootings took place upstate, one in Half Moon Bay, 30 miles south of San Francisco, and the other in Oakland, on the east coast of San Francisco Bay. Total 18 dead.

However, if you look at the total number in the United States, since the beginning of the year there have been 49 shootings (i.e. involving at least 4 people), but if you look at gun deaths (excluding suicides) we are at 1,471 more than three a day. In 2022, there were 20,200 gunshot victims in the United States, a record.
This type of tragic events are also felt in other countries, but very rarely. In the United States, however, they are commonplace and unfortunately are accepted with very little effort to find solutions. These exist and California has moved in that direction, so much so that to buy a firearm in the Golden State you have to wait a period of time for a criminal background check to be completed. So-called assault rifles, which can fire more than 10 bullets without reloading, are also banned in eight other states.

It should be added that in 2016 California became the first state to be able to remove firearms through the approval of the “red-flag law”, a law that allows law enforcement agencies to confiscate firearms from individuals considered dangerous to themselves or others . The legislature also passed a law last year that allows a citizen to sue anyone dealing in illegal gun sales. This law would open the door for manufacturers to be sued if their weapons were used in the commission of crimes.

Nonetheless, guns banned in one state can be bought in another and easily transported to where they are banned. We therefore need federal laws, since state ones are not enough. A 2017 Chicago police report states that most firearms used in crimes were purchased in another state. The report identified that 60 percent of illegal guns recovered by police came from outside the state, likely neighboring Indiana, which has very weak laws on gun purchases.

More restrictive federal laws are therefore needed. Last year, after a too tragic massacre in Texas (the massacre of Roob Elementary School in Uvalde, 22 dead including the killer), the federal government approved a law that imposed very slight limits. Much more is needed. President Joe Biden has challenged Congress to ban assault rifles, but they don’t expect new laws especially with the new Republican majority in the House. California, however, a very influential state, could go even further by passing a law requiring a gun license issued after a law enforcement investigation to determine whether the applicant has certain safety qualifications.

This is the case in many other countries where tragic deaths from firearms are rare because laws have changed. In 1996, Australia banned assault rifles after a shooting that killed 35 people. More recently, after a similar massacre in which 50 people were killed, New Zealand did the same thing.

Such examples are inconceivable in the United States where gun ownership is enshrined in the Second Amendment and guaranteed by Supreme Court decisions. Nonetheless, even conservative Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia wrote in a 2008 decision that the right to possession is not infinite and that the government has the right to impose limits. It is therefore a matter of political action.

Governor Gavin Newsom

California Governor Gavin Newsom said his state needs assistance from the federal government and more savvy from the Republican Party, which in recent years has become increasingly conservative and opposed to laws that control firearms. Unfortunately Americans, with 400 million firearms in circulation, do not expect much from their government, forced to accept these shootings, having become almost numb with the pains suffered by the tragic deaths, which have become almost daily.

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