SACRAMENTO.—California bans firearms for domestic violence offenders. It bans them from people who are deemed a danger to others or to themselves. There is a ban on high capacity magazines and a ban on noise reducing silencers. Semi-automatic weapons, known colloquially as “assault weapons”, are, as is well known, prohibited.
More than 100 gun laws are on the books in California, more than any other state. Lawmakers say they’ve saved lives: Californians have the lowest rate of gun deaths in the United States.
Yet this month, those laws failed to prevent the massacre of at least 19 people in a series of mass shootings. The tragedies of Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay have confounded Americans who regard California as the best bastion of gun safety in a country full of firearms.
Inside the state, gun rights advocates say the shootings reflect a failure of California’s strategy. Meanwhile, gun safety groups have already begun mobilizing for more laws and better enforcement. As details emerge in the investigation, many loopholes have been uncovered, even with California’s vast statute of limitations.
For example, the state’s regulatory web does not compel gun owners to give up guns that were once legal to buy but are now prohibited. California cannot take away guns from people who may be engaging in dangerous behavior but are not flagged appropriately by the courts or law enforcement. And the state must combat the illegal gun trade, a river of unregistered “ghost” guns and firearms flowing in from neighboring less regulated states.
More generally, though, the shooting is offering a lesson in the limits of the state’s power to stop American gun violence, even with the political will at all levels of state government to do so. . Recent rulings from the US Supreme Court have challenged key California laws, and recent shootings have highlighted the difficulty of using state law to balance safety and liberty.
Eleven people were killed and eight were injured in a shooting at a ballroom dance studio in Monterey Park, Southern California. Police said the 72-year-old suspect, Hu Can Tran, opened fire at a Lunar New Year party and then killed himself as officers approached the van in which he had fled.
Two days later, sheriff’s deputies in Half Moon Bay arrested 66-year-old Zhao Chunli after a violent shootout at her workplace at Two Plant Nursery.