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California already has nation's strictest gun laws. Mass shootings could spur push to go further

Hannah Wiley, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

"While California is in the forefront in gun control policy, this tragedy reminds us that our work is not done," said Assemblymember Mike Fong (D-Alhambra), who represents Monterey Park.

Newsom supports proposed legislation to limit who can be issued a license to carry concealed weapons, one of the few gun control measures that failed in the Legislature last year. Senate Bill 2 was reintroduced more than a month before this month's tragedies, and already promises to be one of the main gun bills for the 2023 legislative session. The measure aims to comply with a Supreme Court decision in June that deemed restrictive concealed-carry laws unconstitutional, while still maintaining tight regulations around who can obtain the permits.

Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, an Encino Democrat and co-chair of the California Legislative Gun Violence Prevention Working Group, also unveiled a trio of proposals to regulate firearms. One would establish an excise tax on ammunition and guns in California to help finance violence prevention and school safety efforts, while another would allow residents suffering from mental health crises to voluntarily add their name to a "do not sell" list. The third measure would prohibit someone who has a domestic violence protective order filed against them from buying or owning guns for an additional three years after the order has lifted.

Other proposals by state lawmakers include a ban on selling body armor, which has been used by some mass shooters, and another to make the possession of a so-called ghost gun a felony.

The proposed changes to California's gun laws are relatively minor compared with the suite of new laws Newsom signed in 2022. One established a "firearm industry standard of conduct" and will allow, beginning in July, for local governments, the state Department of Justice and gun violence survivors to sue for egregious violations of state sales and marketing regulations. Another was modeled after Texas' vigilante abortion law and increased legal liability for the gun industry, while two more limited firearms advertising to minors and further restricted ghost guns.

"There's a lot of evidence that our gun safety laws are working and saving people's lives," Gabriel said. "But obviously when we see these kinds of horrific incidents, it's a reminder that we have a lot more work to do."


The massacres in California this month occurred less than a year after President Biden signed what was considered the most significant federal gun control law in recent history, after both political parties struck a deal and limited its scope. That law encourages states to pass "red flag" laws — which allow for the temporary removal of firearms from those who pose a public safety risk — expands background checks and now prohibits romantic partners, in addition to spouses, from owning firearms if they've been convicted of domestic abuse.

Still, proponents of stricter firearms rules have long argued that bolder action is needed to end gun violence. They've called for a federal ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, and for even stronger red flag laws and background checks.

"The federal government needs to do its job," Newsom said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) authored the nation's first nationwide ban on assault weapons during her first term in Washington, overcoming opposition from the powerful National Rifle Assn. to get it passed, but Congress allowed the landmark legislation to expire in 2004. According to University of Massachusetts researcher Louis Klarevas, the author of "Rampage Nation: Securing America from Mass Shootings," the number of mass shootings declined during the ban and grew more frequent after the law's sunset.


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