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California goes it alone on gun control.

Editorial Staff

The New Year sees a major overhaul of California's gun control laws. Is it just a flash in the pan?

Legislation, in full, is at http://leginfo.legislature.ca....

You'd think that any new laws relating to guns in the USA would, above all else, not increase the number of people exempted from some kinds of gun control. Stow that thought. Already Californian "peace officers" who have "honourably retired" are exempt some provisions. That classification is now extended to cover reservists who meet "specified length of service" requirements.

A "peace officer" is a curiously American term encompassing not only police (in all their forms) but also anyone in the law enforcement chain, including prosecutors.

Last year, California passed an act called the Unsafe Handgun Act. Ignoring the presumption that there is such a thing as a "safe" weapon (surely nothing is safe in the wrong hands), the Act required that all guns made, imported, offered for sale, given or loaned in California must meet three specific features: "First, new guns must have an indicator that shows when a round is loaded in the weapon’s chamber. Second, new guns must have a magazine-detachment mechanism that prevents the gun from discharging when a magazine is not in it. Finally, the third provision “requires new handguns to stamp microscopically the handgun’s make, model, and serial number onto each fired shell casing.”" (source: nationalreview.com).

There were, it is said, no guns available in the USA that met, in particular, the micro-stamping criteria. The effect, therefore would be to immediately shut down all legal handgun sales in California. The solution was to create a list of weapons that fail the tests but are permitted anyway. Moreover, as manufacturers must pay to be on the register, many have not done so. The effect, says the National Review, a website opposed to gun control, says is that "“At the end of 2013, the California Department of Justice’s handgun roster contained 1,273 handguns and 883 semi-automatics. As of oral argument in March 2017, it contained 744 handguns and 496 semi-automatics.” That’s a loss of hundreds of approved weapons in under four years." They think that's bad, others may be startled by how many varieties of weapon are available.

So, given that California authorises the use of handguns that itself defines as unsafe, one might realistically assume that at least its own employees and those under its control would use only "safe" weapons." No, not at all. All "peace officers" can use unsafe guns and so can "honourably retired" peace officers and, as from 1 January this year, qualifying retired reservists. And that's not all: the list of "exempt agencies and individuals who are allowed to purchase unsafe handguns" is expanded to include harbour ports and other entities employing peace officers provided that the individual person is not, on some other grounds, exempt.

With effect from 1 Jan 2020, any person who is "taken into custody, assessed and admitted to a designated facility twice within a one-year period because he or she is a danger to self or others as a result of a mental disorder" is subject to an automatic "lifetime ban." The ban is "lifetime" in the sense that it lasts until a review establishes that the person "can use firearms in a safe and lawful manner." Such a review only takes place at the individual's request and can be made only once every five years. Under the new law, the application for review includes specific authorisation for the release, for the purposes of the hearing only, the applicant's mental health records.