One of the biggest issues facing the 2016 election, aside from immigration reform, fixing the economy, and bringing jobs back to hard-working Americans, is gun control. It's quite the polarizing topic no matter which way you slice it. Do guns fall into the wrongs hands? Yes, and it's a part of life. Do we wish only the right kinds of people had possession of firearms? Absolutely. Nothing would please those in a democratic republic more than those responsibly carrying a weapon and using it when necessary. So, why does it seem that gun control reform is such a hot debate? Leave it to the state of California to show other states, in a sense, how to be a trailblazer.
Governor Jerry Brown took to his desk on Friday, July 1, and signed six new gun-control bills into law, while also vetoing five other bills that were passed by the State Legislature.
Courtesy of The Sacramento Bee, the following bills were approved by Governor Brown:
- Assembly Bill 1511 (Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles) - requiring that the infrequent loans of a firearm be made only to family members.
- Senate Bill 880 (Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, & Sen. Steve Glazer, D-Orinda) and Assembly Bill 1135 (Assemblyman Marc Levine, D-Greenbrae) - amending the definition of assault weapons to include semi-automatic rifles with magazines that can be detached with a bullet button.
- Assembly Bill 1695 (Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Alameda) - expanding the existing misdemeanor of making a false report to law enforcement to include that a firearm has been lost or stolen, and imposing a 10-year ban on owning a firearm for people convicted of making a false report.
- Senate Bill 1235 (Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles) - creating a new regulatory framework for purchasing and selling ammunition.
- Senate Bill 1446 (Sen. Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley) - banning possession of high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
The following bills were vetoed by Governor Brown:
- Assembly Bill 1776 (Assemblyman Jim Cooper, D-Elk Grove) - which would've put an initiative on the ballot to clarify that stealing a firearm is felony grand theft.
- Assembly Bill 1674 ( Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, D-Los Angeles) - which would've extended the limit on handguns of one purchase per month for long guns.
- Assembly Bill 2607 (Assemblyman Phil Ting, D-San Francisco) - which would have expanded the list of people who are able to petition for gun violence restraining orders to include employers, co-workers, and mental health and school workers who had contact with the subject in the past six months.
- Senate Bill 894 (Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara) - which would have made it an infraction to fail to report the theft or loss of a stolen firearm.
- Assembly Bill 1673 (Assemblyman Mike Gipson, D-Carson) - which would have expanded the definition of “firearm” to curb homemade weapons created without serial numbers, or “ghost guns.”
Okay, I understand that's a lot of information to take, but there are fair arguments on both sides of the equation. Second amendment advocates want less government involved in their personal lives. I totally get that. Those who want less guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens only want specific types of people to handle firearms. I totally understand that argument as well.
One argument I cannot support is that elected officials are so staunch in wanting to take guns away from law-abiding citizens and yet they feel the need to hire their own entourage or security to protect themselves. I respect the idea that public figures like President & First Lady Obama, as well as VP & Second Lady Biden, speaker of the House Paul Ryan, and other notables in the White House deserve Secret Service protection because of their importance to our country's chain of command (despite how you feel about them inside the political spectrum. I do not endorse the likes of Governor Jerry Brown, Senator Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, or others of the like are walking about the world with protection that could make movie-made politicians blush.
Let's take a look at the laws that were vetoed:
Assembly Bill 1776 was to clarify whether or not stealing a firearm is felony grand theft. There will always be clarification needed when writing an addendum to a law/bill. California Penal Code currently states that personal property in excess of $950 that is stolen is considered "grand theft." How does the judicial system determine what's considered "felony" and "misdemeanor" grand theft? There are a number of subjective factors that are taken into account along with what was stolen. This seems like an arbitrary decision on what's considered "misdemeanor" and "felony" grand theft. If there's so much emotion and passion driven into gun control reform and those wanted to exercise their 2nd Amendment rights, then how can judges truly determine if a $300 firearm and a $1000 gun is the difference between putting someone in jail? I think it's fair that if someone stole my property, especially if it's a weapon that I obtained legally, why is this not considered a "felony" despite it's monetary value?
Assembly Bill 1674 was put forth to extend the limit the handguns of one purchase per month for long guns. Again, this seems a little arbitrary and I can understand why Governor Brown voted against it. However, and I know what people do inside their own home, for what it's worth, is their own business. I don't need to know anything and everything they do in their home unless it (really) affects me directly. That being said, does one really need more than one or two of these long guns? Hunting and shooting at a range are just about the only reasons I can ponder for the use of such firearms. Perhaps you're more privy to what their uses are.
Assembly Bill 2607 would have expanded the list of people who are able to petition for gun violence restraining orders to include employers, co-workers, and mental health and school workers who had contact with the subject in the past six months. The only response from Brown (per the Sacramento Bee) as to why he vetoed this bill was that it would be "premature." It seems this may resurface in the future. Employers, co-workers and mental health and school workers can be construed as some sort of a grey area, but wouldn't you think that if you were in some sort of immediate danger but didn't have the fortitude to come forward and file a gun violence restraining order yourself for fear of your own safety, I would think I'd want those with whom I associate on a rather daily basis to be able to speak for me. In contrast, I can understand that the liberty taken by said groups of people without the expressed written/spoken permission of the person who felt he/she was in danger could be taken advantage of and therefore, rendering such a bill pointless (to an extent).
Senate Bill 894 would've made it an infraction to fail to report the theft or loss of a stolen firearm. This, to me, is a no-brainer. Brown has been quite the advocate of responsible people taking the initiative to report the loss of their firearms and irresponsible people fail to do so. He continued with such support by shutting down this bill and I can't applaud him enough for doing so. It's not as if you're going to magically make good citizens out of criminals who steal guns for whatever reason it might be. You also don't decrease your number of responsible-reporting citizens by ratifying such a bill into law. Good call, Governor.
Assembly Bill 1673 would have expanded the definition of “firearm” to curb homemade weapons created without serial numbers, or “ghost guns.” This reverts back to one of my original points that while government should have some regulations here and there, they should not be present in running our lives, but rather establishing some sense of law and order and letting us live in a free and somewhat civilized society. So many regulations in this gun-control reformation period in which we live have motivated many individuals to legally create their own firearms with materials that the legally obtain. Does this rub some people the wrong way because we don't know exactly what one has the ability to create, even in their own home? Sure. However, the conservative movement is strongly against the government telling them exactly what they're not allowed to do more often than not. It's a tricky subject, but the people of the state of California, much like the other 49 states, should have the liberty and freedom to have their own guns and bear those arms as law-abiding citizens should they obtain them through the letter of the law.
Here are the bills that Governor Brown DID sign into law:
Assembly Bill 1511 requires that the infrequent loans of a firearm be made only to family members. First and foremost, politicians don't really care about how you run your own life. If you trust your friend enough to lend him/her a firearm, then the onus is on you to get that in return. Let's say, hypothetically, that you lend your gun to your friend. You don't get it in return at any point in time that you deem appropriate. Said friend has a mental breakdown and goes on a shooting spree. The judicial system should primarily charge the person who committed the crime, but if the gun was registered in YOUR name, should you be considered an accomplice after the fact? I don't really agree with that logic. You didn't pull the trigger. You probably don't have any marks on your "permanent record." Why should you be sent to jail or prison? I can understand how some people would vote for the revocation of your license to carry/possess firearms for a temporary amount of time, but you should be able to get your firearms back. I don't know how that would work logistically, but it's a thought, isn't it?
Senate Bill 880 and Assembly Bill 1135 amend the definition of assault weapons to include semi-automatic rifles with magazines that can be detached with a bullet button. This may upset some people, but I'm with the governor on this one. Semi-automatic and automatic firearms and so-called "assault weapons," are not needed to be possessed by any law-abiding citizens, even if you have a concealed-carry-weapons permit. When are you ever going to need a semi-automatic weapon, short of a nuclear/zombie apocalypse, and every literally had to start fending for themselves against forces with which are not familiar? Also, from what I can recall, the only "citizens" that legally possess such weapons are those who have served in the military and have them registered appropriately. Even with that being said, I find it a little disheartening that civilians should be able to buy such firearms. While I understand such opposition that one may not "need" a semi-automatic or automatic weapon. Granted, it's likened to people having the options of Corvettes, Challengers, Hondas and Toyotas. We may not need a car with so much power and all these gizmos and gadgets. You are more than welcome to purchase such a weapon and use it to your liking within the law.
Assembly Bill 1695 expands the existing misdemeanor of making a false report to law enforcement to include that a firearm has been lost or stolen, and imposing a 10-year ban on owning a firearm for people convicted of making a false report. Again, I'm with the governor here. It seems to be pretty cut-and-dry to me on this bill. Why would one file a false report of a stolen firearm? I truly don't understand the possible gain from filing a stolen report. There has to be some sort of mental instability of the person who decides to carry out such an action and I think a ban of some sort when it comes to owning a firearm is a fair punishment. I'd even be okay with a 5-year ban, because 10 seems a bit much, but like a lot of laws, we have to pass it to see what's truly wrong with it, right?! Somewhere, former Speaker Pelosi is cringing...
Senate Bill 1446 bans the possession of high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds. This is splitting hairs at this point. I'm a little unsure as to why Governor Brown decided to sign this into law. Is it just because 10 is a nice round number that we round it off at that point? Perhaps. It's a marketing ploy. Nobody can really understand why you would implement a law that says you can't have a magazine more than 7 or 8 rounds, or 11 or 12 for that matter. Ten is a nice, round number and it gets your attention. As I like to often quote from George Carlin, can you imagine Moses coming down from the mountain and saying something to the effect of "The Eleven Commandments? Get the [bleep] out of here!" The same idea is perhaps presented by those who created and pushed for this bill's ratification. On the other hand, ammunition being fired from a gun is going to be a bad idea for any one person on the receiving end. It really doesn't matter at which number you set the limit of rounds inside a magazine... which brings me to the final bill and has probably more people fit to be tied than any of the aforementioned bills that are now laws.
Senate Bill 1235 creates a new regulatory framework for purchasing and selling ammunition. This essentially is instituting a background check for any single time that someone wants to purchase ammo for their firearms. One would think that if a vendor or business is selling ammunition, whether at a gun show or at a range or a certified retailer of such ammunition, red flags would go up for any excessive amounts purchased for whatever the reason(s) may be. Who's to say what's excessive? You could debate that until the cows come home, but I'm fairly sure there's a consensus of a particular limit before concerns are raised and questions are asked. Granted, 2nd Amendment supporters are huge on what they do on their own time is none of your business, and while that may very well be true, it's not taboo to ask questions when, for example, someone wants to buy 2,000 rounds of ammo for a gun or two at any given time. If one wants to spend their own money doing so, sure go ahead. However, as a person who has respect for firearms and has shot a number of guns, I think background checks are acceptable to have, but perhaps treat them like performance-enhancing drugs in sports. Random testing and random background checks just to make sure that people are not getting out of control at an insane pace. How that would logistically happen, I have no clue, but it's certainly worth pondering if there are so many laws being passed and considered before the highest-ranking politician in the Golden State.
Now, just because one politician wants to amend a current law doesn't mean one should. Just because one gets a thought in one's head doesn't mean one needs to share it with the world. I'm an offender of such a wise sentence, but I'm not perfect. More often than not, career politicians here the voice of a couple and think they need to punish the majority who've been obeying the rules and laws of the land. There is always going to be friction between local, state and federal governments regarding gun control and a number of other topics. This one is heavy and while the 10th amendment is still in full effect, much like the 2nd amendment, there will always be conflict. Not everyone is going to agree with everything that's passed through the State Legislature and ultimately written into law by the governor. We should exercise more logic mixed with a dash or two of common sense than trying to create change based on our emotions and reactions to the atrocities of the world.
I am not a proponent of, for example, Matt Damon's call for an Australia-like gun control system were they should be taken away in "one fell swoop." There should never be such an order from the lowest of the low in our citizens who have zero power whatsoever to the President of the United States and his/her executive, legislative and judicial brethren. I, myself, will likely not own a gun for some time. It's not a fear of not using it correctly or lack of knowledge in how to use it. I'm sure if I went through the process and learned the safety and uses for a firearm that I could minimize the harm on myself and others. Would I ever really want to apply for a CCW permit? Not necessarily. Do I think we all should be able to own firearms? Absolutely. I don't foresee myself needing a gun unless absolutely necessary. If I end up wanting one, I don't think the state or federal governments should stand in my way of doing so.
I'm a steadfast supporter of my 2nd Amendment rights given to be by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Yes, this comes on the heels of our Independence Day, and I never want to forget why our country was founded and taken away from the British during the American Revolution. With that being said as well, I don't want us to ever become a reckless society that bends to the will of terrorists (both foreign and domestic). We should be taking initiative to learn more about how to protect ourselves, respect the enemy, and when we are called upon to neutralize an enemy, do so accordingly and not cower. Again, I'm not saying everyone should be required to own a gun, but general knowledge of how to operate a few would be beneficial to us and our children. We also must be responsible adults to keep guns out of the hands of our children because we don't want accidents to happen. Accidents WILL happen over time, and more often than not, there are just those: accidents. Sometimes, we don't have explanations for why they happened, and more often than not, accidents (which, by definition, don't usually require intent) need to have blame placed on some party, no matter what.
In closing, guns are scary and they should be respected, but so should the people of the state of California and these United States of America. We all need to place accountability where its needed, but that does not mean taking away our federal rights as American citizens. We must be diligent and smart in how we acquire ammunition and firearms and not get carried away in any way, shape or form. Politicians are going about the gun control issue, more often than not, by grabbing handfuls of water and refusing to let the water slip through their fingers. Some isolated incidents will slip through the cracks, but problems are able to be resolved with logical reasoning. I think a caller once said something that really resonated with me: "the government should stop telling us who IS allowed to carry/possess a firearm, and rather focus on who should NOT be allowed to have one." Truer words have never been spoken.