By Steven Greenhut | Franklin Center
SACRAMENTO – It took only days before California’s legislators reacted to the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School tragedy with a fusillade of bills designed to take California closer to Democratic leaders’ unstated but obvious goal: making it essentially illegal for Californians to own firearms.
I write “essentially” because the strategy isn’t to ban guns outright, but to mire ownership in so many layers of regulation that owning a gun becomes even more frustrating and costly than operating a business in this state. Legislators aren’t stupid. Direct assaults on gun ownership generate pushback, but killing this constitutional right through a thousand cuts is less confrontational.
California already has the toughest gun regulations of any state, yet legislators (including a Republican) have introduced a long list of new proposals at news conferences where they used the Connecticut tragedy to grandstand.
“They were mowed down,” Los Angeles Democratic Sen. Kevin de Leon said. “I think that, viscerally, it will give a lot of political officials around the country the political courage to do the right thing.” It’s not clear what de Leon means by the right thing.
California has passed 45 gun control laws in the past 23 years.
(Liberal Connecticut has tough gun laws, too.)
California has long waiting periods, background-check requirements, limits on the number of gun purchases, bans on gun sales to people with mental illnesses and felony convictions, bans on high-capacity ammunition magazines and on concealed weapons. The governor recently signed a law banning the open carrying of unloaded long guns. The list goes on.
That’s in addition to myriad federal restrictions.
If you think we’re safe from gun violence because of all those rules, check out the murder rates in Los Angeles, Oakland and San Bernardino.
Now, de Leon is targeting ammunition. “We don’t think about the fuel that feeds the violence, and that’s ammunition. If you want to fish, you have to secure a license to fish. If you want to cut down a Christmas tree in California – this is legally factual – you have to secure a permit at a cost of $10. Yet anyone who walks into any gun store in California can buy all the ammunition they want.”
That statement is more of an indictment of the kind of society we’ve become – so regulated and taxed that one isn’t allowed to cut down a Christmas tree without getting government permission – than about firearms. But I digress.
Like everyone, I’m still shaken by the Newtown school shooting. I’m all ears when it comes to finding real solutions to violence, but am tired of cheap, predictable attempts to turn tragedy into another assault on our liberties and wallets.
After this week’s legislative frenzy, I headed to one of the largest Sacramento-area gun dealers to purchase that 12-gauge shotgun I’ve been considering – only to find the shelves virtually bare. The Daily Beast reports on a similar situation throughout the country.
Americans realize that an assault on private gun ownership is coming, and it’s best to buy a weapon now, while they still are available at a store, rather than only on the black market.
Perhaps de Leon and others might ask their constituents why they would want a gun. This morning, my wife handed me the local newspaper with a story about three men arrested for murdering one of my neighbors in October during a robbery. Is it unreasonable to want the wherewithal to defend one’s family? The cocking of a shotgun – an internationally understood signal that “you’re not welcome here” – would be all it takes to dissuade most intruders.
Gun control advocates are utopians. Their perspective is that, if guns are no longer readily available, that violence will evaporate. But there are so many guns in circulation that it would take decades to reduce their availability – unless legislators adopt the police-state policy of sending cops door-to-door to confiscate firearms. Even then, there would be black markets and other methods for evil folks to commit mayhem.
It’s better to let people arm themselves. An operator of a private school told me that California’s 1995 Gun-Free School Zone Act – banning guns within 1,000 feet of schools – is making it difficult to hire an armed security guard.
There’s a reason criminals are more likely to ply their trade in “gun free” zones than in heavily armed neighborhoods. There’s no better check on a diabolical gun owner than law-abiding gun owners. I personally don’t like guns and wish everyone were peaceful and kind, but it’s better to be realistic than to pursue fantasy.
Gun control laws exempt groups of government officials. Anyone who believes working for the government relieves people of the tendency to do bad things has never heard the phrase “going postal.” There are endless stories of authorities misusing their firearms, both on- and off-duty, which is a reminder of the main reason the founders gave gun ownership the second spot in the Bill of Rights.
Californians crazy enough to believe these new proposed laws will make them safer should be happy. The rest of us should find a well-stocked gun store as soon as possible.
Steven Greenhut is vice president of journalism at the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org