New legislation infringes on gun rights
Joseph Lake considers the effects of gun control. | Photo courtesy of Joseph Lake
When I returned from 15 months in Iraq, among the first things I did was celebrate my Second Amendment right in Texas by purchasing guns. When I returned from 14 months in Afghanistan, I celebrated it more. As a California native, I welcomed this freedom which has been refused to my home state.
The right to bear arms remains among the most volatile political issues in the nation. On one side, gun rights supporters hold fast to the “shall not be infringed” portion of the Second Amendment. On the other, gun control supporters emphasize “A well regulated Militia.” Who the Second Amendment applied to was finally settled and then reaffirmed with Heller (2008) and MacDonald (2010). These cases clarified the long debated question, “Is the Second Amendment an individual right?” with two 5-4 decisions, affirming the individual’s right to bear arms. Despite these rulings, numerous gun control laws that conflict with the Constitutional amendment continue to be proposed and passed in California.
Early this month, California Governor Jerry Brown signed several gun control bills into law adding to the plethora of gun control measures already present. The most egregious were AB 1014 and AB 1964. At the same time, had SB 808, SB 53, AB 2305, or SB 47 passed, any of one of those would have created a significantly worse environment for California gun owners than the two recently signed.
AB 1014 was proposed in direct response to the Isla Vista killings, which occurred last spring. It allows family members to report one another to have their firearms forcefully confiscated by police. Law enforcement initially holds that person’s guns for two weeks, but this period of time can can extend for up to a year. This new law allows a fast pass for firearm confiscation, supplanting the right of due process which has been intact for decades. The original version of the bill sought to allow any person to report and have law enforcement confiscate the firearms of any individual. By targeting guns as the problem and not addressing the mental health systems, our law makers either illustrate their failure to understand the problem or the determination they have to erode gun rights of the people they serve.
Because several gun control advocacy groups support the “SWATing”, making fraudulent 911 calls to illicit an overly aggressive law enforcement response, of gun owners, the potential for abuse seemed clear. The legislation narrowed to only allow family members to report one another, thereby reducing the potential for abuse down to dysfunctional family members instead of the whole of social media.
If one considers the “right to keep and bear arms” a natural, civil, and Constitutionally protected right of the people as the Supreme Court has affirmed, I would hope that Americans would feel less inclined to disregard due process. As an essential part of our heritage, due process becomes necessary for us to remain a nation with a high respect for our laws. Considering that the perpetrator of the Isla Vista rampage murdered three of his victims without the use of a firearm, our legal reaction to penalize legal gun owners and not improve mental health treatment appears sadly misplaced.
AB 1964, signed by the governor last July, will restrict the availability of handguns in California. Since 2001, in order to purchase a new handgun in California, the specific make, model, color and caliber has needed approval by the California Department of Justice and posted on their roster. The law provided an exception to the roster if the model was a single shot version. AB 1964 ends that exception beginning January 2015.
This law alone limits the variety of new handguns Californians can purchase to only a selection from the early 2000s. When the roster is combined with California’s microstamping requirement, which went into effect last May. These two laws will effectively ban the majority of pistols from being sold in California potentially as soon as 2015.
One might accuse the gun lobby of resisting the new requirements, but there are practical reasons which show the costliness and ineffectiveness of microstamping. Because federal law bans handgun purchases outside the state of residency, any Biolan who hoped to purchase a new handgun when they turn 21 years old will have a much smaller selection, if any at all, if their birthday is not this year.
I do not share the unadulterated Second Amendment fervor like the Gun Owners of America who sit in their corner and angrily chant “Shall not be infringed!” As Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia articulated in the Heller majority, certain laws regarding weapons in sensitive places were active at the time the Constitution was written. What I have found consistently lacking from proponents of gun control are rational arguments with up-to-date facts. Just as limits have been placed on the First Amendment, there are limits that can be placed on the second. Like the limits on the First Amendment, each one must be justifiable in a directly demonstrable fashion. I believe the whole of the California Assault Weapon law and the CA Handgun Roster fails to meet the common use test solidified in the Supreme Court’s Heller (2008) decision.
I think the same solutions proposed by gun control proponents are ridiculous. These same restrictions were in place for 10 years and failed to provide any measurable decrease in crime. The attack on assault weapons has been sensational from the beginning. There have been repeated reports from the FBI showing rifles, which assault rifles are a subsection of, account for less than 5 percent of the homicides committed with firearms. Reports also fail to distinguish between legal firearms and illegal firearms. Yet, because the uninformed populace sees a black tactical rifle they are stirred into a frenzy. Whenever a law with the potential to limit our civil rights is proposed, any of our civil rights, it ought to be done so with informed politicians and to address specific issues. Anything less than that pulls us away from the principles this nation was founded upon.