The latest round of gun-control bills speeding through the California legislature should offer a reality check to those of us who own firearms: Democratic leaders will never be satisfied closing the latest round of "loopholes." Every year they push new rounds of "reasonable and common sense" gun laws, few of which seem reasonable given they target law-abiding owners. To many legislators, the Second Amendment is the real loophole.
Most Reason readers already know this, of course, but they might not understand some other dismal realities: Law enforcement is generally not on our side on this. For instance, Assemblyman Jim Cooper, the Elk Grove Democrat the Sacramento Bee refers to as "law enforcement's man at the Capitol," is the author of several of the latest Assembly bills. Some sheriffs have opposed Democrat Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom's anti-gun initiative likely headed to the November ballot, but others are actively championing new restrictions.
Furthermore, California Republicans have been complicit in the current mess. Sure, the vast majority of them oppose new gun restrictions and give thunderous pro-Second Amendment speeches in the state capitol. Yet Republicans deserve a large portion of blame for creating what I've long referred to as the state's "infrastructure for confiscation" given their support for the Armed Prohibited Persons System.
As a way to prove they are eager to take guns from the hands of criminals, legislators passed APPS in 2007. We're the only state with a database that cross-references names of gun owners with names of those who—because of criminal convictions, mental illness or the issuance of a restraining order—are no longer allowed to own them. The state Department of Justice then sends agents to the door to confiscate those weapons.
The Legislature authorized an audit of the program under a 2014 law and gave it $24 million in additional funding. Last year a group of GOP legislators sent a terse letter to Attorney General Kamala Harris complaining she hadn't hired enough new agents—and her department didn't confiscate nearly enough supposedly illegal weapons.
It was a good way to chide an attorney general who is running for U.S. Senate, but consider it in the context of the latest legislative flurry. One Senate bill would prohibit the possession of detachable magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. "If it passes, the owners would need to sell them to a licensed dealer, transfer them out of state or turn them in to law enforcement to be disposed of," according to the Bee.
APPS looks like a model for state officials to potentially grab newly created contraband. Furthermore, the state auditor and gun-rights groups estimate the APPS list is anywhere from 37 percent to 60 percent inaccurate, which means Justice Department agents are going door-to-door to take guns from many people still legally allowed to own them. Has the GOP outsmarted itself here?
These fundamental issues don't muster discussion in our one-party state. The current "debate" centers on intra-Democratic rivalries. Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, is building his campaign around his statewide initiative proposal. (Supporters have submitted their signatures.) Senate Majority Leader Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, isn't a Newsom supporter and already has moved his similar package through the full Senate.
Some of these basically are harassment bills. One would limit your ability to lend out guns to family members. Another would require background checks for ammo purchases. (Note to readers: Stock up on ammo now.) Others are silly. If you craft a homemade gun, you would be required to give it a serial number and have a background check. I'm guessing many people who make such guns do so to evade detection.
Another would create a Firearms Violence Research Center at the University of California—destined to be yet another government-funded propaganda center. As columnist Dan Walters noted, the Democrats rammed their 11 bills through to pressure Newsom to drop his initiative, which they fear will bring out pro-gun voters in the general election.
The number of guns owned by Californians has soared over the past two decades, and the population has grown dramatically—yet firearms-related deaths have fallen over the years. Is gun violence a problem of gun supply by legal owners or the behavior of criminals? Whatever happens to these bills this year, the legislature will ignore the obvious answer and be back again next year with more. For gun owners, there's little left to rely on other than the courts.