Los Angeles County supervisors propose wave of new gun control restrictions

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

California already dozens of gun control laws on the books, but that’s not stopping supervisors in the state’s most populous county from looking to add even more local restrictions on top of the state’s 10-day waiting period, universal background checks, magazine ban, “assault weapons” ban, red flag law, and the host of other measures already in place.

The LA County Board of Supervisors voted on Tuesday to investigate what new gun control ordinances might be able to put in place, and there’s no shortage of bad ideas under consideration.

The measure, authored by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Hilda Solis, authorizes county attorneys to check if gun control measures like age limits, background checks, red flag laws, and banning of certain weapons could be legally passed.

“I’m pretty convinced that if we can enact some regulations here in Los Angeles County, it will save lives,” Hahn told Eyewitness News. “I want our county lawyers to come back and tell the board of supervisors whether or not we can enact some stricter, common sense gun legislation here in LA County.”

Hahn says one example would be a law that focuses on people who are on the federal no-fly list.

“I don’t think those people should own a gun, so I’m wondering if we can enact ‘If you can’t fly on a plane, you can’t own a gun here in LA County'” Hahn said.

I’m not sure what the supervisors are even talking about with some of the items on their wish list. California already has “universal” background checks that cover every sale of firearms and ammunition, for instance. And their “new” ideas are even kookier than the gun laws already on the books in the state. Take their local “no fly, no buy” idea as an example. Even the ACLU has panned the idea of using the no-fly list to bar people from purchasing firearms, calling the list both “error prone” and “unfair“.

It may sound appealing to regulate firearms by using the government’s blacklisting system for what it calls “known or suspected terrorists,” but we have long experience analyzing the myriad problems with that system, and based on what we know, it needs major overhaul. As we told the senators:

Our nation’s watchlisting system is error-prone and unreliable because it uses vague and overbroad criteria and secret evidence to place individuals on blacklists without a meaningful process to correct government error and clear their names.

That’s why we have argued that if the government chooses to blacklist people, the standards it uses must be appropriately narrow, the information it relies on must be accurate and credible, and its use of watchlists must be consistent with the presumption of innocence and the right to due process. This is not what the government is doing, though. Instead, as we explained to the Senate using the No Fly List as an example:

The government contends that it can place Americans on the No Fly List who have never been charged let alone convicted of a crime, on the basis of prediction that they nevertheless pose a threat (which is undefined) of conduct that the government concedes “may or may not occur.” Criteria like these guarantee a high risk of error and it is imperative that the watchlisting system include due process safeguards—which it does not. In the context of the No Fly List, for example, the government refuses to provide even Americans who know they are on the List with the full reasons for the placement, the basis for those reasons, and a hearing before a neutral decision-maker. It is unsurprising that a system like this is not just bloated, but applied in an arbitrary and discriminatory manner.

Arbitrary and discriminatory? No wonder the LA County supervisors are so excited about the idea. After all, California law already allows for arbitrary and discriminatory practices when it comes to the issuing of concealed carry licenses, so why not impose similar subjective standards for gun ownership itself?

These countywide prohibitions would do nothing to prevent violent criminals from illegally obtaining and using guns in the commission of a crime; a problem which is only getting worse with soft-on-crime District Attorney George Gascon in charge of prosecuting those criminals when they’re actually arrested and charged with a crime. Gascon is likely to face a recall election this fall, and maybe it’s time for county residents to launch a new recall effort aimed at these supervisors who offer empty promises of increased safety if they can just chisel more away from the right to keep and bear arms.

“All this does – similar to most things that are done in gun control — is raise the cost and complexity for lawful gun owners,” said Matthew Larosiere, the Director of Legal Policy with the Firearms Policy Coalition. “And frankly it’s just a bunch of nonsense.”

Any changes locally will take some time. County attorneys have two months to review the 2018 gun safety analysis and three months to come up with new ways to update any existing laws.

It is a bunch of nonsense, but that doesn’t mean it won’t also become law. This is Los Angeles we’re talking about, after all, and the county has a history of putting ridiculous orders in place in the name of the “common good.”