Gov. Brown should give gun legislation the go-ahead

SACRAMENTO — Man goes to work. Woman visits a mall. Child sits in class. Couple attends a movie. All have one thing in common. They are vulnerable to being shot and killed by some “innocent law-abiding citizen.”

Anyone who owns a firearm is law-abiding and entitled to be armed, if you listen to the gun lobby.

Then suddenly the person’s not law-abiding. He goes berserk and mass kills.

The National Rifle Assn. and its sidekicks simply are shills for the firearms industry, scaring people into buying expensive weapons before President Obama, they ominously warn, bans their sales. Maybe even confiscates them. Like the Nazis did.


Laughable if it weren’t so tragic.

Now we have another mass shooting.

A guy has repeated disciplinary problems in the Navy. He’s arrested three times over a decade, twice for gun-related incidents. He tells Rhode Island police that voices are speaking to him through the walls, floor and ceiling.

A few weeks later he buys a riot shotgun — short barrel, large magazine — from a Virginia gun shop and takes immediate possession after an instant so-called background check. (In California, there would have been a 10-day waiting period — maybe it would have been a cooling-off period.)


Two days later, he carries his riot gun to a Navy yard in Washington, D.C., and kills 12 people.

What’s missing here?

A comprehensive, nationwide background check system that could flag the likes of mass killer Aaron Alexis. But the gun lobby and its Republican minions — some cowardly Democrats, too — will have none of it, blocking such legislation in Congress.

That’s particularly the case since the lobby orchestrated the recall of two Colorado state legislators — one the Senate president — who helped pass bills requiring universal background checks paid for by gun purchasers and a 15-round limit on magazines. (In California, the limit is 10 rounds.)

The gun lobby seems to believe that all these mass killings are the price we must pay for freedom.

Never mind that the United States has the embarrassing distinction of having the highest rate of firearm-related murders among all the developed countries.

Yes, we have a 2nd Amendment. But it doesn’t guarantee that any person can own any weapon he chooses. That conservative hero, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in a 2008 opinion affirming the right of individuals to own firearms, wrote that “the right secured by the 2nd Amendment is not unlimited....

“The right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”


Fortunately in California, most legislators long have recognized that a modicum of gun control makes common sense.

Inspired by last December’s massacre of 26 — including 20 children — at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., the Legislature recently passed more than a dozen gun-control bills.

They’re now on Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk awaiting his signature or veto. It’s anyone’s guess how he’ll act. Probably sign some, veto others — that’s his MO.

Brown was asked by reporters Monday — the day of the Navy yard shootings — about the volley of gun bills fired his way. His cautious reply:

“First of all, California has the toughest gun laws in the country and we’re proud of that achievement, which has been done over many, many years. And I think we want to look very carefully and not just react to events of the day.

“When we pass laws, it’s not a decision of the moment. It’s a decision for the decades. And we want to look very carefully at what it is we’re setting in motion.”

Translation: He’ll need some convincing before any of these measures become law. But some definitely should.

A no-brainer is SB 755 by Sen. Lois Wolk (D-Davis) that would add repeated alcohol and drug offenses as reasons for denying gun ownership. Two DUIs within three years and you couldn’t possess a firearm for 10 years.


“Research shows a really strong relationship between alcohol abuse, multi-DUI convictions and the risk for committing violent crime,” says Garen Wintemute, director of the UC Davis Violence Prevention Research Program.

Like most gun bills, this one basically was passed by Democrats and opposed by Republicans.

Responding during the debate to a GOP opponent — whose argument essentially was incoherent — Assemblywoman Susan Bonilla (D-Concord) said: “How many times have we heard the argument that ‘guns don’t kill people, people kill people.’ You just can’t have it both ways” by providing guns to people at risk of becoming killers.

But in order to become a mass killer, someone needs a weapon capable of a mass killing. Like a rapid-reloading rifle. SB 374, by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), would ban the sale of semiautomatic rifles capable of accepting detachable magazines.

“Do law-abiding citizens need guns that can shoot 50 or 100 or 200 rounds at one time?” Steinberg asked during the floor debate.

Clearly not. Brown should sign that Steinberg measure — along with AB 48, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), which would ban the purchase of “repair kits” allowing legal magazines to be converted into those holding more than 10 rounds.

Another must-sign: SB 127 by Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Rocklin), which would require psychotherapists to quickly report to law enforcement any patient who makes a threat against someone. Politicians of both parties supported that bill. It passed unanimously.

None of these bills will end gun violence, but they’ll reduce it. They may be inconvenient to some, but conserving lives — being able to go shopping or to a movie at less risk — is a higher priority.

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