Bill would tighten rules on gun ownership in California

Second Amendment

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY—The shooting that killed a man in Boulder Creek on Jan. 28 followed two mass shootings in California, which themselves came amidst a flurry of gun violence across the U.S. 

In response, several Democratic lawmakers have teamed up with Gov. Gavin Newsom to craft legislation that would make obtaining a Carry a Concealed Weapons permit (CCW) more difficult. 

According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 59 mass shootings in 2023 throughout the country as of Feb. 6, defined by that organization as an incident in which at least four people are wounded or killed.

On Jan. 23, Chunli Zhao allegedly shot and killed seven people and wounded one at a labor camp in Half Moon Bay.

Less than a week later, Hemet resident Huu Can Tran killed 10 people and wounded 10 others in a dance studio in Monterey Park near Los Angeles.

A 16-year-old boy has been arrested in the Boulder Creek incident, in which 18-year-old Rowan Parham suffered a fatal gunshot wound to the chest during a party.

The spate of gun violence–which has become commonplace in U.S. culture–has garnered the attention of California Senator Anthony Portantino, who along with Gov. Gavin Newsom and several co-authors introduced a bill on Feb. 1 that would strengthen California’s already stringent concealed carry regulations.

Portantino said his legislation was also spurred by New York Rifle and Pistol Association v. Bruen, the recent Supreme Court decision that declared unconstitutional New York’s law requiring gun owners to show good cause to carry a concealed weapon. While that decision does not affect California law, some worry the precedent could prompt gun rights advocates to overturn other legislation.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Feb. 2 that a law prohibiting people who are subject to domestic violence restraining orders from possessing guns is unconstitutional. One day later, a federal judge in Oklahoma ruled that a law barring marijuana users from owning guns also violates their Second Amendment rights.

“In the wake of the recent tragedies in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay and the continued threat of mass shootings, it’s critical that California leads on the issue of gun safety and reform,” Portantino stated in a press release. “I am proud to be working with Governor Newsom, Attorney General Bonta and activists on SB 2 to strengthen our existing concealed carry laws and ensure every Californian is safe from gun violence.”

The National Rifle Association’s Institute for Legislative Action did not respond to multiple calls for comment. But it pointed out in its website that a similar law—Senate Bill 918—failed last year, which the organization described as “a huge win for law-abiding gun owners not having additional costs, burdens, and restrictions” the law proposed.

Newsom, who co-authored the bill, says that California’s strict gun laws have led to a 37% lower gun rate than the national average.

“We’re doubling down on gun safety and strengthening our public carry law to protect it from radical Republican attacks,” he said. 

California already requires that anyone applying for a CCW permit must justify their need for it by showing they are under threat. 

SB 2 would add to this by setting the minimum age for obtaining a permit to 21. It also requires stricter storage and training requirements, and limits each CCW license to no more than two guns.

Also under the proposed law, applicants must undergo interviews—usually with their local sheriff’s departments—a process that includes reference checks and a review of their social media.

In addition, Portantino’s bill would establish several “sensitive public areas” where carrying firearms would be forbidden, such as schools, government buildings, playgrounds and places of worship.

“The Supreme Court’s reckless Bruen decision opened up the floodgates for more guns in more places—but with this bill California once again renews its commitment to being a national leader in the fight against gun violence,” said Shannon Watts, California resident and founder of Moms Demand Action. “While the gun industry celebrated the ruling that put their profits over our safety, our grassroots army is proud to stand with our Gun Sense Champions in California to pass this critical bill and make our communities safer.”

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