Gun control bills have been rushing through the state legislature at breakneck speed, and Governor Gavin Newsom is anxious to sign them into law. But it’s unclear how many will survive this Supreme Court.
It’s also not clear which existing California gun controls will remain intact, including biggies like banning the sale of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines holding more than 10 rounds.
Many appear to be in danger because the Conservative court ruled that the 2nd Amendment right to carry guns overturns a New York law restricting who can legally carry a concealed gun in public. California and a handful of other states have similar laws.
Judge Clarence Thomas wrote for the court that the Constitution “protects a person’s right to carry a pistol outside the home in self-defense.”
And more broadly, Thomas wrote, “To justify firearms regulation, the government must demonstrate that regulation is consistent with the nation’s historical tradition of firearms regulation.” Gun lobbies applaud this statement.
Historical lore? That is, regulations before there were guns that could fire dozens – even hundreds – of bullets per minute? When the population was more rural than urban?
There is at least one historical precedent for banning guns on the streets. In 1881, in Tombstone, Arizona, the Earp brothers – Wyatt, Morgan and Virgil – pushed through an ordinance with Doc Holliday banning the boxing of handguns in the town. This sensible rule led to the shooting at OK Corral.
Would the current court find the Tombstone Act unconstitutional? Allowing the outlaw gang called the Cowboys to ‘protect’ themselves against City Marshal Virgil Earp?
Another firearms regulation in recent history – half a century ago – comes to mind. It was arguably California’s first modern gun control law.
Half a dozen members of the Black Panther Party charged through the massive doors of the State Assembly chamber in 1967, guns loaded, while 20 brothers in arms waited outside in the hall. I was in the chamber that day and can attest that virtually everyone was terrified.
The Panthers were reportedly protesting a Republican-backed law that would ban the carrying of loaded firearms within a city. Actually, it was a publicity stunt that made the Panthers famous. But it shocked and terrified lawmakers, who passed legislation making it illegal, with some exceptions, to carry a loaded gun in public. Republican Governor Ronald Reagan quickly signed it.
Would this law be considered unconstitutional today?
Experts are divided on how much the court’s ruling undermines California’s toughest gun laws.
“This will have far-reaching legal implications, particularly in California,” predicts Adam Winkler, a UCLA law professor who specializes in gun laws. “The court has signaled that it will be much more skeptical about gun laws.
“The ones that are likely to be at risk are the ones that are most popular with gun safety advocates: assault weapon bans, high-cap magazine bans, the elevated [gun-buying] Age, warning sign laws, wait times, ammo background checks and some of the remaining concealed carry permit requirements.
“The court is likely to lift bans on high-capacity magazines. You could see that the 10-day waiting period is over.
“We will see battles in the years to come.”
And he says, “Tombstone’s law would be unconstitutional.”
But Garen Wintemute, who directs the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program and has studied shootings for decades, is more optimistic about surviving California’s strict gun controls.
“I think California and other states will continue their commitment to violence prevention,” he says. “And if the Supreme Court puts up obstacles, they will find ways to get around them.
“I have great respect for the intelligence and resourcefulness of California politicians. It’s a setback, but we’re good at overcoming it and we will overcome this one.”
He could have a fight about the “intelligence and ingenuity” of politicians – a truly American “historical tradition.”
Legislators in cooperation with the prosecutor. General Rob Bonta and the governor created a covert transmission bill to circumvent the court ruling.
“Our goal is to be bold but constitutional — to do as much as possible within the framework established by the Supreme Court,” said State Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), the author of the bill.
The court ruled that it’s okay for states to require permits to carry concealed weapons in public. But the requirements must be specific and consistent, not arbitrary and subjective like in New York and California – at the whim of a local sheriff.
Gun owners can no longer be required to provide a “good cause” for carrying a gun in public. But states can restrict guns in “sensitive places” like schools, government buildings and polling stations.
“We’re going to push the envelope,” says Portantino.
Its legislation would require a concealed weapon carrier to be at least 21 years old, require disclosure of all prior arrests, convictions and restraining orders, and mandate personal interviews, psychiatric evaluations and character references.
Guns would be banned from schools, government buildings, medical facilities, public transportation, public parks, concerts and bars.
“The law will never become law,” says Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California.
But it is expected to pass the legislature and be signed by Newsom — along with ghost gun ban bills, which would allow shooting victims to sue dealers who sell illegal guns and ban manufacturers from selling their guns to minors .
In the meantime, brace yourself for more guns on the streets. Let’s hope parking lots don’t turn into OK corrals.
https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2022-06-30/skelton-sacramento-gun-legislation-supreme-court Skelton: Will California gun control legislation survive?