California gun control proposal makes some things clear

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The state of California has some of the most extensive gun control laws on the books. None of them stopped two high-profile mass shootings within 48 hours of one another back in January of this year.

Yet it’s unsurprising that some people want to use those shootings, as well as others in the state, to try and justify anti-gun legislation.

A prime example popped up recently at The Mercury News out of San Jose.

There, an op-ed by Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen lays out a few proposals, not all of which are terrible. But it also illustrates an important point about gun control advocates response to mass shootings.

All of California’s gun control laws couldn’t save Jose Hernandez III, one of the nine victims of the Valley Transportation Authority mass shooting. Despite our best efforts to achieve gun safety, there is still a catastrophic cost. It is a bill we all must pay.

In California, we have a 10-day waiting period to purchase a gun. It’s illegal for anyone who doesn’t have a license to carry a gun in public. To buy a handgun, you must be at least 21. Yet guns are California’s third leading cause of death among kids. A gun suicide occurs every six hours. A mass shooting leaves an innocent person, such as Jose Hernandez III, dead every eight days. It’s always a terrible price to pay. Jose was a family man, a master mechanic and a guitarist in his church band. A disgruntled employee with a semiautomatic handgun killed Jose and eight others just a five-minute walk from my office.

If our gun laws are so strict, why is there still so much bloodshed? As a district attorney, I know that many well-meaning people have written well-meaning laws. However, many of those laws have been blunted by the bitter politics of gun control — leaving us with only futility and funerals.

Of course, he can’t admit that those laws–and this is California, where any “blunting” has been minimal at best–failed spectacularly.

But Rosen has a proposal, so let’s see what he’s got.

There is a path to get beyond thoughts and prayers. I call it the California Gun Violence Prevention Act (GVPA.) The statewide initiative is a constitutional and common sense gun safety initiative.

GVPA concentrates on three areas of gun violence: prevention, safety and healing.

OK, so there’s reason to be concerned already, mostly because we’ve seen this kind of thing before. But let’s hear Rosen out, first.

GVPA will provide mental health treatment to those who temporarily lose their firearm due to a Red Flag law or a domestic violence restraining order. Our duty is to ensure that violent, impulsive individuals are fully recovered from mental health issues so that our communities remain fully safe.

Honestly? This isn’t a terrible idea. One of the problems with red flag laws is that it leaves supposedly dangerous people free to walk around and possibly do other horrific things. Providing mental health treatment to such people–and yes, also people accused of domestic abuse as well–is probably a good idea.

So far, so good.

But, let’s skip the next paragraph and go on to this one. You’ll see why in a moment.

GVPA also prioritizes the victims of gun violence. It creates a statewide network of Trauma Recovery Centers. These centers will provide gun victims with vital counseling services and state-funded restitution — no family should choose between burying their loved one and paying their monthly bills.

OK, I’m not entirely sure that this will accomplish much in the grand scheme of things. Trauma counseling might, if for no other reason than to prevent revenge killings, but giving out money probably won’t.

That said, it’s not the end of the world, either. I’d rather see private charities step up and do this, but this is California we’re talking about here. Why let private charity do what the government can do at a greater cost and less efficiently, right?

But hey, no gun control, right? Well, let’s not get carried away. After all, there’s another paragraph to talk about, and that one’s…interesting.

Another way to prevent gun violence is by raising awareness about the basics of gun safety. GVPA will make it the law that gun owners must take at least four hours of gun safety training and pass an in-person test. That’s roughly equivalent to what we require of every registered car owner in California.

Now, this is in response to a mass shooting.

Does Rosen think mass shootings only happen because people don’t know guns are dangerous or something?

After all, he started with the specter of the Valley Transportation Authority mass shooting there in San Jose. Does he really suggest that a four-hour class and a test will somehow dissuade mass shootings?

Many mass shooters purchase their guns lawfully, so I don’t know that they’d blink about taking a class first.

Violent criminals, on the other hand, that represent the bulk of the problem in California, aren’t buying their guns lawfully. I seriously doubt they’ll take a class before they buy a gun from their buddy that stole a Glock 19 from some house in the suburbs.

All a training requirement for gun ownership would do is drive up the cost of owning a firearm for law-abiding citizens and create new barriers to exercising one’s right to keep and bear arms, all while doing nothing to solve the problems the measure is claimed to address.

“But driving…”

Yeah, let’s not start with that nonsense.

First, the courts have long ruled that driving is a privilege, not a right. Comparing the two things is an apples-to-oranges comparison on that fact alone. Moreover, you can buy a car and drive it all you want without getting a license. You just can’t do it on public roads, which is where that “privilege” thing comes in.

Yet what Rosen is proposing goes beyond the whole driving thing because it now says just to own a thing, you have to go through a training course and test first whereas you have to do no such thing to buy a car.

So sorry, I’m not playing that gun control game.

Rosen is touting a couple of decent ideas here, but he loses it when he gets into gun control and thinks that’s something worthy of consideration.

It ain’t.