Gun control reruns

A bevy of new laws heads to the State Capitol amidst fresh violence

Students rallied hundreds in Chico’s City Plaza in solidarity with others across the state and nation during the March for Our Lives, an event protesting gun violence, on March 24.

Students rallied hundreds in Chico’s City Plaza in solidarity with others across the state and nation during the March for Our Lives, an event protesting gun violence, on March 24.

Photo by Charles Finlay

With gun massacres in Nevada, Texas and Florida still fresh in people’s minds, California lawmakers are moving forward with no fewer than 10 pieces of legislation aimed at curbing the violence. And whether they were looking out their windows at the 6,000 marchers who descended on Sacramento recently, or are just taking inventory of a string of mass shootings in their own state, lawmakers seemingly have the motivation to push California’s reputation for gun control even further.

But how many of their bills have a real chance of passing?

There have been eight mass shootings in the Golden State since 2006, if mass shootings are defined as events in which five or more people are killed by a lone shooter. Over that span, California legislators passed more than 18 bills linked to gun control. The most recent was Assembly Bill 785, signed in October, which bans individuals convicted of misdemeanor hate crimes from owning firearms for a decade.

Now, as the nation remembers the slaughter of 58 people in Las Vegas and 17 in Parkland, Fla., California leaders prepare to debate a package of new measures, including ones to: take firearms from people who have been hospitalized for suicide attempts twice in a year; raise the age to buy long rifles to 21; and allow people to put themselves on the state’s prohibited persons list, operating on a werewolf theory that at-risk individuals will try to stop themselves from killing during a lucid moment.

But if recent history is any indicator, there’s no guarantee that any of these bills will become law. Assemblyman David Chiu’s AB 1663 rehashes a failed attempt to broaden the definition of an assault weapon in California to include large-caliber, semi-automatic rifles without fixed magazines. That bill died in committee two years ago.

Similarly, a bill by San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting to expand emergency intervention orders is also a retread. Ting’s proposal would allow people other than family members to request that guns be temporarily confiscated from someone they’re worried about, giving co-workers, teachers and mental health workers that same authority. In 2016, Ting’s bill cleared both state houses only to be vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Amanda Wilcox, co-president of the Sacramento Valley chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, acknowledges that some new bills present privacy and stigmatization concerns, and says her organization tries to muster its advocacy around the legislation it thinks can save the most lives. Wilcox adds she’ll lobby especially hard this year for AB 2222 and AB 2781, both of which give law enforcement more tools for tracing guns used in crimes.

Still, Wilcox says, nuanced policy fixes may not be fueling the current youth movement.

“The politics are changing with all the shootings, like Parkland and other recent ones,” Wilcox told the N&R. “We have a lot of newer advocates that are showing up to help us, but they might not be interested in intricacies of gun-tracing. But they get the idea of an 18-year-old buying a gun.”

That energy was on display during the national March for Our Lives. A diverse, emotionally charged crowd rallied to the steps of the State Capitol on March 24, seeking answers to the nation’s tide of mass shootings and the impotent government response to them. Many young people were following the lead of Parkland students, who created a political firestorm designed to make leaders feel the heat.

“Gun violence affects all students, no matter where you live,” said high school student Sky McNurty, who marched Saturday. “We want real change and real action. Instead, we get posters at school telling us to run in [a] zig-zag line in a shooting. We should not be learning survival techniques instead of preparing for math tests.”

Outside of Sacramento, roughly 500 people marched against gun violence in Republican-red Rocklin. Wilcox spoke at that event. After spending 17 years fighting to end mass shootings, Wilcox felt inspired by the number of teens marching in Rocklin.

“It’s very heartening,” she said. “We haven’t seen this kind of advocacy and interest from young people in the past. But their population has so much at stake. … This really gives me hope.”