On guns, California wants to be a model for states. Should that matter to Pennsylvania?

Monday, February 11, 2019

As excerpted from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Background checks for ammunition sales. A lifetime gun ownership ban on anyone convicted of domestic violence. A sales limit of one gun per person per month.

Those are among the restrictive new laws and proposals that could reduce gun violence in California. The state already has stricter gun-control laws than most; legislators said this week they hope to position their state as a model for the rest of the nation.

“We have the political ingredients that they don’t necessarily have in every state," Assembly member Jesse Gabriel, a Los Angeles-area Democrat and inaugural member of a gun-violence prevention group among lawmakers, said in an interview Friday. “We understand that we can push the envelope on policy-making a little bit, and we think, hopefully, as we demonstrate results, as we show different ideas that are working, that other states will look to California and copy our regulatory framework.”

The laws passed in California echo those enacted in New Jersey, another state with many gun restrictions: ways to regulate guns by regulating things related to them, such as ammunition and accessories, and who has them.

“By setting these higher standards for gun safety, New Jersey continues to bolster its reputation as a national leader on this critical social and public health issue,” Gov. Phil Murphy said when he signed six new gun laws in June.

For nearly a decade, even as mass shootings and gun violence spiked, the Republican-controlled Congress has not enacted any new national laws to address either problem. So the battle has shifted from the Capitol to the statehouses. Since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, gun control advocates in state capitals across the country have passed targeted and sometimes inventive laws to expand gun regulations within their borders.

“Change doesn’t appear out of thin air. It starts somewhere,” said Nico Bocour, state legislative director for Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence, the gun-control group that teamed with Gabriel and other California legislators for a news conference last week announcing their working group. “States like California and New Jersey have been able to pass forward-looking policies that are proven to work. They have set the bar and given other state legislatures a road map to follow.”

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California lawmakers are considering a move to expand their protection-order law and to train law enforcement in its use. Gabriel and his colleagues also plan to push bills to fund and expand gun-violence prevention programs, require safe gun storage, and limit gun purchases to one per person per month, among other things. With a Democratic majority in the legislature and a new governor, they believe their prospects are good.

“I don’t know that Pennsylvania has the will to do them yet, but I hope that we can learn from them,” CeaseFirePA director Shira Goodman said of California’s laws.

Stephens, the Montgomery County Republican, cautioned that there’s unlikely to be a rush to follow the Golden State.

“I don’t think there are too many people in my caucus who are looking to follow California’s lead on firearm policy,” he said. He said he was compelled to push for the extreme-risk protection orders because of the data he’d seen out of other states, not because California or others had enacted it.

Still, advocates hope changing norms nationwide will put their proposals in perspective.

Asked whether he thought actions by other states could help move the needle here, McCarter said: “I would surely hope so.”