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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

Feinstein attempted without success to reenact the assault weapons ban, including in the aftermath of the attempted assassination of then-Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011 in Tucson and the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut in 2012. She reintroduced another bill on Monday to ban military-style assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

Obstacles to efforts to enact more stringent gun laws extend beyond the partisan-gridlocked halls of Congress and into the federal court system, where Republicans and gun rights groups have found great success in blocking stringent firearms laws.

Several 2nd Amendment organizations have intentionally brought cases before a federal judge in San Diego who has struck down California's longtime, statewide ban on assault weapons and, more recently, an important provision of California's latest bill that authorizes private lawsuits against the gun industry.

Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, warned that his group would sue to block the implementation of additional gun restrictions, including the concealed-carry bill, should it pass.

"I fully expect that the Legislature is going to cram a piece of legislation down," Paredes said. "But ultimately we will challenge it in court and we will win."

Ari Freilich, state policy director for Giffords Law Center, acknowledged those challenges.

"It's a real obstacle and it's not a new one," he said. "There's been essentially a cottage industry of lawyers and gun industry-funded groups that ... sue the state of California to try to dismantle what we've built over a few decades."


Freilich said the Supreme Court's decision against broad concealed-carry laws last year has effectively "invited a new wave of lawsuits to essentially relitigate what had been previously settled matters."

But that doesn't mean California should pump the brakes on its efforts, Freilich said.

"It is important to note how, zooming out, despite the constant threat and burden of defending lawsuits against what California has built," he said, "what we have built has been successfully implemented in large part and is making progress."

Senate Republican Leader Brian Jones of Santee said new legislation should be worked on in a bipartisan manner.

"California has over 100 gun control laws on the books, many of them forced through the Legislature on party-line votes. I think a partisan approach on major issues such as this one does a disservice to everyone," he said in a statement. "If California truly wants to tackle gun violence in our state, we should take a page out of Congress's book and work on a bipartisan measure."

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