California law seeks to remove firearms from the possession of people likely to misuse them. SB 55 by Sen. Hannah Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara) would create a new class of misdemeanors that would result in a 10-year prohibition on firearms possession. She theorizes that “gun violence” and death will be reduced if guns are kept out of the hands of people who, based on drug use and Driving Under the Influence convictions, are now determined to be at risk of future acts of violence. However, Jackson is only addressing legal gun owners in her bill.
However, the bill does not pass Constitutional muster, and will only add to the already 23,222 backlogged cases in the Department of Justice Armed Prohibited Persons System.
Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed Senate Bill 755, a similar bill. In his veto message he said, “This bill adds substance-abuse offenses and court orders to undergo mental health outpatient treatment to criteria that result in a 10-year prohibition on firearms possession. I am not persuaded that it is necessary to bar gun ownership on the basis of crimes that are non-felonies, non-violent and do not involve misuse of a firearm.”
Pass it Anyway
“In the spirit of ‘not one more,’ I bring SB 55,” said Sen. Jackson Thursday as she presented her bill in the Senate. “Recent research evidences a strong correlation between certain alcohol/drug related misdemeanor convictions and future gun violence,” Jackson added. “People with multiple DUIs are significantly more likely to commit gun violence than people with just one DUI.”
The research Jackson refers to is from the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center, the first state-funded center for research into gun violence, “founded to address these gaps in knowledge on firearm violence and its prevention in July 2017,” the website says. “According to the legislation authorizing UCFC: The center shall work on a continuing basis with policymakers in the Legislature and state agencies to identify, implement, and evaluate innovative firearm violence prevention policies and programs.”
The Legislature created a public university program in 2017 to research and develop anti-gun policy, that they could then use in state policy. It is a “partnership” between the state of California and the University, according the the former lawmaker, Lois Wolk (D-Davis) who authored the legislation creating the program. As the University of California Firearm Violence Research Center says, “We place a particular focus on firearm violence, and on the connections between violence, substance abuse, and mental illness.”
‘Minority Report’ Bill Would Prohibit People ‘Likely to Commit a Crime’ From Owning a Gun
“Gun violence. Who commits it? What can we do to distract people who would use guns to express their anger or commit injury to others?” Sen. Jackson asked. “Published research finds certain drug and alcohol and future gun violence and future criminal behavior, 5 x more likely to use a firearm. We have the data and science. We can prevent this violence.”
Jackson’s bill requires three DUI convictions to bring about this prohibition. “Research and data show people are five times likelier to engage in future gun violence,” she said again.
Not everyone in the Senate agrees with Jackson.
“I’m struck by the irony that the great move in California now is to decriminalize drugs,” Sen. Jim Nielsen (R-Gerber) said. “We do not want to jail them. We are going to go easy on them. This is an artful way to disarm more Californians. There are certain drugs that are particularly dangerous – meth… the mean drug.”
“‘Use a gun, go to prison’ was voted on by the people of California,” Nielsen added. “Let’s address the individual and the consequences of that individuals’ behavior. This is perverse logic – this is just another way to disarm Californians.”
Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Temecula) addressed the hypocrisy. “We have to be careful that we aren’t hypocritical. We deplore the violence we see used with guns in our schools…. a symptom of our lack of providing mental health services. One big factor in that is social media.”
Stone said it’s ironic that you look at the cause of death of people who use opiates in this country. “We’ve lost more to narcotics than we lost in Vietnam,” Stone said. “The culprit is the importation of fentanyl to this country. Go after the distributors, not just the users.”
Stone, a pharmacist, explained that Fentanyl is 50 percent stronger than heroin, but being marketed as heroin. “They are dying of respiratory failure as the needle is in their arm.”
“My colleague from Orange County has bills to stop this, but this Legislature won’t even let those bills out of committee.”
“I know you don’t like the 2nd amendment,” Sen. Stone said to Jackson. “So bring a bill forward to abolish it here in California like so many other bills. This bill will get through, and to Governor’s desk, and then the lawsuits will begin. How does this bill even make sense? This is a bad bill, unconstitutional bill.”
Backlog of Armed Prohibited Persons System Not Addresses
At one point, Sen. Anna Caballero (D-Salinas), asked Sen. Jackson how her bill impacts the Department of Justice Armed Prohibited Persons System. SB 55 bill analysis claims the APPS system is backlogged because of budget shortfalls, “as DOJ has limited resources to investigate and seize firearms from persons on the list.”
Jackson said, “because so many people started buying guns, we got behind on the DOJ prohibited person’s list.”
“Consider the fact that a lot of the gun violence perpetrated is because of illegal possession of firearms,” Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove said, noting that illegal possessors of firearms do not follow registration laws.
Grove noted that this law will get people who legally possess firearms, if they have 3 DUIs, but won’t do anything to stop those with illegal firearms and DUIs. Grove brought up Gustavo Perez Arriaga who gunned down police officer Ronil Singh, a legal immigrant from Fiji who was a police officer. “This bill won’t do anything to stop those who don’t obey laws.”
“We are not going to stop everyone,” Sen. Jackson said. “But we are going to stop the people more likely to use firearms. It’s the science.”
“And to my colleague from Temecula (Stone), who is a pharmacist but not an attorney, this bill is clearly constitutional,” Jackson said. “The research and the data… the fact we will be able to do something to prevent.”
The bill was passed along party lines, 26-10, and goes to the Assembly.
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