This morning, I was called and told that there was a shooting at my alma mater, the University of California, Los Angeles. According to current reports, it seems to have been a murder-suicide incident in one of the Engineering buildings on campus. I lived in Westwood while I attended UCLA and Loyola Law School. With close friends placed on lockdown only a few buildings away from where the shooting occurred, this hits close to home.
Hours after the shooting first occurred, I received a text message from one of my friends placed on lockdown who works on campus. After confirming he was ok, he said, “Looks like the anti-gun arguments are going to come out in full force again. Until people get distracted by Kim Kardashian’s ass.” Although humorous, this statement could not be more accurate. The gun control debate will rear its head and society will be forced to choose a side once again.
Photo of law enforcement response. Sourced from: http://www.cnn.com/2016/06/01/us/ucla-shooting-report/
However, in a state like California, what more can realistically be done? California has some of the most restrictive gun control laws in the United States. In almost every gun control debate, pro-gun control advocates will argue for a few core laws, including universal background checks, eliminating the gun control loophole, registration of firearms, safety tests, magazine capacity limits, and “assault weapon” bans. These arguments have no foundation in a gun control debate in California. This is because California law already regulates everything listed above, and then some.
In fact, it is difficult to suggest a gun control law that California does not have. To summarize, California’s sweeping gun control regulates the following:
Magazine Capacity Limits: Under California law it is illegal to manufacture, cause to be manufactured, import, keep for sale, offer or expose for sale, give, lend, buy, or receive a “large-capacity” magazine. Anything over ten rounds is considered a “large capacity” magazine. (P.C. § 32310).
Assault Weapons Ban: California has an “assault weapons” ban with three categories of “assault weapons.” Under Category 1, certain firearms are listed by name and considered assault weapons regardless of features. Under Category 2, there is an additional list of firearms banned by name and “series.” Under Category 3, a rifle is an assault weapon if it is a semiautomatic, centerfire rifle, capable of accepting detachable magazines, and if it has any one, or a combination, of the following: (a) a pistol grip, (b) thumbhole stock, (c) a folding or telescoping stock, (d) a grenade launcher or flare launcher, (e) a flash suppressor, or (f) a forward pistol grip. (P.C. § 30510-30515).
California Handgun Roster: California law requires a Roster of Handguns Certified for Sale in California. California residents cannot buy handguns that do not appear on the California Handgun Roster from licensed gun dealers. If it is not listed on the California Handgun Roster, it is considered an “unsafe handgun.” California law states it is illegal for “any person in this state who manufactures or causes to be manufactured, imports into the state for sale, keeps for sale, offers or exposes for sale, gives, or lends an “unsafe handgun.” (P.C. § 32000).
Microstamping: California law requires that all semiautomatic pistols not already listed on the Department of Justice’s Handgun Roster have to be “designed and equipped” with “microstamping” technology or they are considered “unsafe.” (P.C. § 31910). Thus, no new handguns can be sold in California barring limited exceptions. For a description of what microstamping is visit: cafirearmslaw.com.
School Zones Firearm Prohibition: California’s Gun-Free School Zone Act generally prohibits the possession of firearms in the area in, or on the grounds of a public or private school from Kindergarten through grade 12, or within a distance of 1,000 feet from the grounds of the public or private school. (P.C. § 626.9). This also applies to the possession of firearms at university or college campuses and their buildings for student housing, teaching, research, or administration. (P.C. § 626.9).
Universal Background Checks (both federal and state): In addition to federal laws requiring background checks from licensed dealers (27 C.F.R. § 487.124), California requires a dealer to fill out a Dealer’s Record of Sale (DROS) form electronically. (P.C. § 28180). These federal and state laws require a purchaser to provide: name, gender, address, birth date, place of birth, height, weight, ethnicity, state of residence, and, answer questions regarding factors that may prohibit the buyer from owning firearms. Additionally, California law requires the thumbprint of the buyer. (P.C. § 28160(b)). All gun sales in the State of California require a background check. (P.C. § 27545, 27590).
Gun Registration: Prior to January 1, 2014, all handgun transfers were registered in California. (P.C. § 11106(a)-(b), 28210(c)(3) (2013)). As of January 1, 2014, all firearms acquired from a licensed firearms dealer in California are registered to the buyer. (P.C. § 11106).
10-Day Wait: Under California law, with every purchase of a firearm, the buyer must wait ten days from their DROS form was submitted before they may legally take possession of the firearm from the licensed dealer, even if they passed the background check immediately. (P.C. § 26815).
One Handgun Per 30-days: Under California law, it is illegal to purchase or apply to purchase, more than one handgun within a 30-day period. (P.C. § 27535).
No Gun Show Loophole: As stated above, all firearms sales in California require a background check. Thus, there is no gun show loophole in California.
Firearms Safety Certificate/Test: As of January 1, 2015, California law requires that anyone purchasing a firearm must pass a written “firearms safety” test and show proof of passing by presenting a valid Firearms Safety Certificate to a licensed firearms dealer. (P.C. § 31650(b)).
Required locking devices and Firearms Storage Laws: California requires all firearms transferred within the state be accompanied by an approved “firearms safety device” and warning language or labels upon delivery of the firearm. (P.C. § 23640). Additionally a gun owner may be prosecuted for “criminal storage of a firearm” if they store a firearm in a place under their control in a way a person prohibited from possessing firearms may gain access to it and cause a crime. (P.C. § 25100).
Firearm Transportation Laws: California has a large amount of laws restricting how guns can be transported, what are the appropriate containers for the firearms to be transported in, locking requirements, and lawful purpose requirements. (See generally P.C. §§ 26405, 25610, 16850).
This list does not cover half of the firearms restrictions that exist in California which include, but are not limited to the regulation of ammunition, concealed carrying, destructive devices, generally prohibited weapons, age requirements, and gun safety requirements. So, what more can even be done?
The answer is not more gun control laws. One additional law, or even a thousand more laws, will not stop a criminal from committing a crime. Clearly, California’s heavy restrictions were not enough to stop the shooting at UCLA, or the terrorist attack in San Bernardino, or the Isla Vista shooting. These crimes were committed in the state with the most restrictive gun control laws in the United States.
It is often said there are four or five objectives of criminal laws: (1) retribution – or revenge to punish the criminal; (2) deterrence – providing a sufficient penalty for breaking the law to deter someone from actually committing the crime; (3) incapacitation – to separate the criminals from the rest of society; (4) rehabilitation – to transform the criminal into a law-abiding member of society; and (5) restoration – to repair the injury placed on the victim. The gun control laws that are implemented are largely in place to deter criminal behavior. Gun Control laws do little for retribution, rehabilitation, restoration, and even incapacitation as many state and federal firearms crimes have low conviction rates and do not result in sufficiently long incarceration.
Therefore, if the main goal for these gun control laws is to deter criminal behavior, California’s laws have failed miserably. The reality is that laws based solely on deterrence have little affect when it comes to preventing crime. Further, when discussing these school or mass shootings, there is no actual deterrent effect on these shooters, because many of these shooters have every intention of being killed during the crime. Thus, although arguably implemented to stop criminals, these gun control laws do very little but limit the rights of law-abiding gun owners.
Whether the UCLA shooter purchased his gun legally or illegally, the simple fact is that California’s massive amount of gun control did not stop him from committing murder. It is a simple fact of reality, no matter what the law, breaking it is easy. Laws are broken every day by nearly everyone in the United States (both intentionally and unintentionally). How will adding one more additional law stop anything? Truthfully, it will not. The focus should be placed on what are the causes of crimes in general, not adding more laws that will create new classes of criminals.