California Gov. Gavin Newsom and other state officials announced new gun safety legislation Wednesday, days after the state was rocked by a string of deadly mass shootings.
California has the strongest gun legislation in the country, Newsom said at a press conference Wednesday, but the state continues “to recognize with humility that we could do more and better.”
The legislation, which the Democratic governor announced alongside state Attorney General Rob Bonta and state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D), is very similar to legislation that failed last year, but its proponents are confident that a key change to the language and a new slate of lawmakers in the California State Legislature will help it glide to victory.
The new rules proposed in the legislation are largely aimed at making it harder for guns to end up in the hands of dangerous or irresponsible people. If enacted, they would beef up the licensing protocols local officials must follow when issuing firearms permits, requiring them to conduct in-person interviews, gather character references and review applicants’ social media profiles.
It would also prohibit anyone younger than 21 from obtaining a concealed-carry license and designate certain public spaces as gun-free, including schools, hospitals, government buildings, places of worship and public transit facilities.
“If you have not been moved by the need to end gun violence in recent days, if you’re not scratching your head asking why, if you’re not searching your memory banks and determining what are our next steps, then you have not been paying attention,” Bonta said Wednesday.
There was a sizable “elephant in the room,” Newsom acknowledged. Very similar legislation died last year when Democrats failed by two votes to get a two-thirds vote ― a requirement because the bill contained an “urgency clause” allowing it to go into effect as soon as Newsom signed it rather than waiting until Jan. 1. That clause has been stripped from the new legislation, but it could be added back in if its backers determine it won’t be a problem this session.
The new legislation comes on the heels of two major mass shootings in California ― one on Jan. 21 that claimed 11 lives in Monterey Park, in the Los Angeles area, and another on Jan. 23 that killed seven people in Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco.
Republicans and conservative media figured opposed to gun reform were quick to argue that these shootings were proof that California’s strict gun laws are ineffective, but the fact remains that the state has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country, giving it a 37% lower rate of gun deaths than the country’s average. In Mississippi, Wyoming and Missouri ― three states with some of the country’s most lax gun laws ― the rate of gun deaths is about triple that of California.
It’s “remarkable,” Newsom said Wednsday, that we “have states like Florida that are moving in the exact opposite direction” and pushing a bill that would allow residents to carry firearms without a permit.