New Year Brings New Gun Control Laws and Signs of More to Come

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Advocates for gun control in California have a lot to celebrate this year as the state enacts a slew of bills aimed at reducing gun violence, and hopes rise that Gov. Gavin Newsom will be more amenable than his predecessor to additional gun reform efforts.

More than a dozen new gun laws passed by the state legislature went into effect Jan 1. These include Assembly Bill 1968, which bans people from possessing a firearm for life if they’ve been admitted to a mental health facility multiple times because they’re deemed a danger to themselves or others.

Another law, Assembly Bill 3129, puts a lifetime ban on gun possession for people convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence, up from the previous 10-year ban. And Senate Bill 1110 raises the minimum age for purchasing long guns, such as shot guns and rifles, from 18 to 21, brining it into line with the state’s law on purchasing handguns.

“The intent of most of the bills that were enacted furthers our key goal, which is to keep weapons out of dangerous hands, or weapons out of those who are at risk of future acts of firearm violence because of their past behavior or condition,” said Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chair for the California Chapters of theBrady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

The higher age restriction on buying long guns, for example, recognizes “that there’s a great variation of maturity level, responsibility, impulsive behavior among 18 to 21 year olds,” she said. AB1968, meanwhile, prevents potentially dangerous people from obtaining guns, she added.

The California Partnership to End Domestic Violence applauded AB3129. Jacquie Marroquin, director of programs for the partnership, said expanding the ban on firearms for domestic abusers should help prevent gun violence in the home.

“There’s ample data stating that the links between firearms and domestic violence is particularly lethal. Abuse (victims) are 5 times more likely to be killed if the person harming them owns a firearm,” she said. “Essentially guns can act as tools to exercise power and control over one’s partner, and they can even threaten physical harm if they don’t comply with their demands.”

Another gun-related bill, rejected by former Gov. Jerry Brown, has been reintroduced in the legislature this month. Senate Bill 61 would restrict the number of long guns people can buy to one per month, which is already the law for handguns. Wilcox said, if enacted, the bill would help crack down on people who buy multiple guns in a month to sell on the black market, allowing them to fall into the hands of criminals.

Supported of SB61 are hopeful Gov. Newsom, who has expressed support for additional gun control measures, will back the bill.

Gun rights advocates, however, say the state’s approach to regulating guns doesn’t help prevent violence, and simply frustrates law abiding gun owners. Craig Deluz, spokesman for the Sacramento-based Firearms Policy Coalitionsaid a recent federal study showing most criminals likely purchase their guns on the black market, points to the ineffectiveness of trying to regulate legal gun sales.

“The study confirms what we have said for decades,” Deluz said. “That gun laws are not effective, because people who are obtaining a firearm in order to break the law are not going to follow the law in the obtaining of that firearm.”

To reduce gun-related deaths, the state needs to crack down on gangs and illegal drug use, and provide more mental health resources to people at risk of suicide, the spokesman said.

Wilcox, meanwhile, argued the federal study shows that tighter gun regulations are successful at making it more difficult for people to buy guns legally. What’s needed now is more enforcement and national laws to prevent illegal gun sales, and felons from purchasing guns outside the state, she said.

Laws alone won’t be enough to prevent gun violence, said Jessica Merrill, communications managerwith the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence. To prevent domestic abuse involving guns, for example, requires better enforcement of the state’s existing system to remove guns from the hands of convicted abusers. It also requires programs that educate people about healthy relationships and how to get help if they’re the victim of domestic abuse, she said.

Merrill said the state legislature recently approved $5 million in funding to help pay for domestic violence prevention programs, which is a good start.

“We do need more investments in prevention,” she said. “The state of California has historically invested resources in addressing crises….We need to move further upstream and actually stem this issue of domestic violence before it becomes an emergency.”

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