Sacramento D.A. says felon-in-possession arrests up 45% since 2019

AP Photo/Don Thompson

In the wake of this weekend’s shooting in Sacramento that left six people dead and a dozen others wounded, there’s been no shortage of calls for more gun control laws. President Joe Biden called on Congress to pass a ban on home-built firearms and to repeal the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act to allow gun makers to be sued for the actions of criminals, while California Gov. Gavin Newsom offered up vague comments in support of unspecified new laws to combat the “scourge of gun violence.”

As plenty of folks have noted, however, California already has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation, and while those laws may be an impediment to those trying to legally exercise their Second Amendment rights, they’re not doing much at all to curtail criminals.

In a new column for the Los Angeles Times, writer Anita Chabria calls the soundbite solutions offered by Bided and others “sound and fury” that never really changes much. And while Chabria herself ends up offering some platitudes of her own, her column did reveal one statistic that gets to the heart of the gun control debate, especially in a state like California.

Sacramento County Dist. Atty. Anne Marie Schubert, who is running for state attorney general on a get-tough-on-crime platform, told me that since 2019, her office has seen a 45% increase in the number of cases filed for felons in possession of a firearm. It’s not just Sacramento that’s seeing that rise, she said. It’s happening across the country.

“I’ve been screaming about this for over a year, how many illegal guns there are on the streets,” she said. “You talk to any chief of a major city across the country, they will tell you the same thing.”

With all due respect to Schubert, I think the way she discusses the issue is problematic in itself. We’re not talking about “illegal guns” for the most part, but people who aren’t legally eligible to possess one. If she’s seeing a dramatic increase in the number of felons in possession of a firearm charges despite the fact that California puts new gun control laws on the books on an annual basis, you’d think at some point Schubert and other politicians would eventually wake up to the fact that more laws aren’t making a difference… at least in stopping criminals from getting guns. At best, these gun control laws provide for additional charges after the fact, but they’re certainly not preventing these heinous crimes from being committed in the first place.

Despite that, anti-gun advocates like Chabria are still bitterly clinging to the idea that things will get better with just a few more laws on the books.

If there’s any way out of this very dark wormhole of gun violence, it’s the possibility that an empowered majority of Americans are waking up to the truth. The truth is that the 2nd Amendment can be protected without enabling easy access to assault weapons.

These weapons have been mistaken as a fundamental value of our democracy, somehow enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights, but they are not. Nobody needs a machine gun for self-defense or anything else. Nobody needs to fire 600 rounds in a minute.

Too often, these guns are about death, not self-protection. They are about taking away the most fundamental right: the right to exist, and to do it without fear.

I don’t know why Chabria referred to an “assault weapon”, given that police haven’t released any details about the type of firearms they believed were used by the shooters, but we know that rifles of any kind are used in just a small fraction of homicides every year. There are more murders committed by individuals wielding their fists and feet than with “assault weapons,” but Chabria is still looking for an easy answer; the magic gun control law that can put a stop to this madness.

If that magic law existed, California would surely have passed it long before now. The truth is that there is no easy fix, no soundbite solution that can eradicate violent crime. But we can start by focusing on the small number of individuals who commit an outsized number of those crimes, rather than trying to ban our way to safety by declaring the most commonly-owned firearms in the country off-limits to the tens of millions of law-abiding gun owners. That wouldn’t get rid of every crime of violence in this country, but based on past evidence it would do wonders for California’s crime rate.