California has always been central in the contemporary American gun debate. You can pinpoint the start of the debate, in fact, to a 1967 action by two dozen Black Panthers. The group entered the California Capitol with shotguns, handguns, and rifles in protest of a loaded open carry ban that would criminalize their practice of observing arrests while armed. Then-Governor Ronald Reagan, a Republican, signed the “Panther Bill” into law shortly thereafter.
The political actors championing gun restrictions quickly changed hands when progressives took the helm. The impetus for reform changed, too, and the history of California’s firearm laws became a history of its tragedies. The state banned assault weapons after a shooter in Stockton killed five children at an elementary school in 1989. After a 1993 mass shooting in San Francisco, California implemented educational requirements for handgun buyers. Voters passed Proposition 63, which banned high-capacity magazines and mandated background checks for ammo purchases, the year following the San Bernardino shooting.
Even before the state saw three high-profile mass shootings this month, California lawmakers entered the 2023 session determined to further strengthen firearm restrictions. They’ve proposed taxing ammunition and guns, prohibiting body armor, and making possession of a ghost gun a felony.
But although California has some of the toughest firearm restrictions, and experts argue these laws have helped reduce gun violence, lawmakers say it’s still not enough. “One state can’t do it alone,” Governor Gavin Newsom said this week in a call for federal action. The legal landscape is similarly bleak: The Supreme Court’s sweeping ruling in Bruen last year could invalidate many of the state’s existing gun laws, not to mention the cooling effect of legal decisions on potential legislation.
That doesn’t mean they won’t try. “There’s a lot of evidence that our gun safety laws are working and saving people’s lives,” Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel told the Los Angeles Times this week. “But obviously when we see these kinds of horrific incidents, it’s a reminder that we have a lot more work to do.”
From Our Team
The Monterey Park Shooter Had an ‘Assault Pistol.’ What Does That Mean?
Breaking down the weapon seized in connection with the deadly mass shooting at a dance hall in California.
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Only 5,300 NRA members gave itemized gifts to the group’s Political Victory Fund last year, down 45 percent from 2018 and more than 40 percent from 2020.
What Is Microstamping, and Can It Help Solve Shootings?
Laws to expand the technology’s use have passed in three states and the District of Columbia. But some are questioning its effectiveness.
What to Know This Week
The Secret Service released a landmark report on mass attacks, identifying behaviors that could signal an individual has the potential for violence. And in a series profiles of mass shooters, two criminologists argue that these attacks aren’t random acts of violence, but a symptom of a rise in “deaths of despair.” [Secret Service/The New York Times]
A troubling rise in violence perpetrated by young people has reversed decades of decline. Oftentimes, the victims are other kids. [The Wall Street Journal]
Two Second Amendment lawyers who helped win Bruen will argue a federal challenge to Illinois’s nascent assault weapons ban. The NRA is helping fund the lawsuit. [Chicago Sun-Times]
Five fired Memphis Police officers have been indicted in the death of Tyre Nichols. The officers are charged with second-degree murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping, official misconduct, and official oppression. [Memphis Commercial Appeal]
Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut said he has hope that he’ll be able to find common ground with Republicans to pass gun safety legislation in the new Congress, noting that safe firearm storage might be a subject of bipartisan agreement. [CNN]
The law enforcement killing of an activist protesting “Cop City,” a proposed police training facility in Atlanta forestland, caught national attention this week as a protest in the city escalated to vandalism. But the local stakes are being overlooked. [Bitter Southerner/The Intercept]
A Philadelphia anti-violence program grant is the subject of at least two investigations for improperly funneling $76,000 to city Police Department staffers. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
ShotSpotter employees have broad discretion to decide if the technology correctly identifies a gunshot, and, per a 2021 company account, reverse the algorithm’s determinations 10 percent of the time. [The Associated Press] Context: A growing body of evidence suggests ShotSpotter’s technology is ineffective, and activists say it leads to deadly over-policing.
Administrators at the Virginia school where a 6-year-old shot his teacher were warned three times that the child might have a gun, a lawyer for the teacher said. The Newport News School Board voted to oust the superintendent the same day the attorney announced the allegations. [The Washington Post]
The victims of the mass shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay have been identified. The Monterey Park remembrances were sourced from the Los Angeles Times, NBC News, CBS News, and The New York Times.
Ming Wei Ma, 72, was compassionate, kind, and funny, and a pillar in the Star Ballroom Dance Community. Mymy Nhan, 65, attended dance classes every night of the week, and was always eager to celebrate her friends’ and family’s wins. Diana Man Ling Tom, 70, was a hard-working mother who went out of her way to give to others. Xiujuan Yu, 57, worked labor-intensive odd jobs to provide for her family. She loved to cook, and often dropped off food for relatives unasked — she was the type of person to put others before herself. Valentino Marcos Alvero, 68, was the “life of any party” and a loving family member who shared stories with such enthusiasm that “you couldn’t help but listen and laugh along with him.”
Yu-Lun Kao, 72, known as Andy and as “Mr. Nice” at Star Ballroom, was a free spirit who loved to dance, even if it was on his own. Hongying Jian, 62, known to her neighbors as Nancy, liked to play volleyball, sing, and play piano. She could make friends with anyone. Wen-Tau Yu, 64, was in school to become a pharmacist, a patriarch who always strove to better himself. Chia Ling “Charlie” Yau, 76, was a caring family member and friend who loved to travel, and easily expressed gratitude for life and words of love. Muoi Dai Ung, 67, enjoyed dancing, eating, and gambling — and rumor has it she sometimes tried to do all three at the same time. Her family remembers her as complicated and messy, and easy to love. There isn’t much information about Lilan Li, 63, other than that Li was friends with Xiujuan Yu.
There isn’t yet much information about the Half Moon Bay victims, so for now, we’re just sharing the names of those who have been identified: Zhi Shen Liu, 73; Marciano Jimenez Martinez, 50; Qi Zhong Cheng, 66; Ai Xiang Zhang, 74; Jing Zhi Lu, 64; Ye Tao Bing, 43; and Jose Romero Perez, age unknown.
Spotlight on Solutions
A pediatric care network in St. Louis is launching a subtle gun violence prevention effort: baskets full of free gun locks in their facilities. The “No Questions Asked” baskets, as staff at a children’s hospital have dubbed them, also pamphlets explaining safe storage practices. The initiative was piloted at a children’s emergency room, where doctors developed a “nonjudgmental” script to question parents and caregivers about access to firearms. In the two years the program has been running, a physician told CNN, the baskets have been emptied of thousands of locks.
“I thought of how quickly I have normalized the grotesque — standing in front of the subway beams when a train arrives so that I have something to grab onto if pushed; casually ignoring men who roll their eyes up and down my body and call me ‘China girl.’ Too many marginalized people feel this: the notion that violence is the foundation of the home that we fearfully inhabit. Yet every time the violence happens, we grieve anew.” [The Atlantic]
“The tragedy here is that we’re talking about a gunman who is too young to be called a gunman because he’s 15 years old. These ages make you weep.”— Darcel D. Clark, Bronx district attorney, on the rise in violent crime in young people, to The Wall Street Journal