Gone without a bang: Gov. Brown should end his term with stronger gun control laws

Illustration courtesy of Alice Feng

Governor Jerry Brown of California signed into effect several new pieces of gun control legislation Sept. 25, cementing California’s reputation as the state with the strictest gun control laws in the nation. These provisions include imposing lifetime bans on those convicted of domestic violence charges and expediting the process of removing weapons from individuals deemed a danger to themselves and others. The laws come on the heels of recent mass shootings, such as the one at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year, that have energized the debate over gun control in the United States.

But if I’m being honest, it’s not enough. If California wants to forge the path to stifling gun violence in the United States, it has to go even further.

Brown has established himself as someone willing to play with political fire, especially against the Trump administration. Between California’s sanctuary state laws and the recent restoration of net neutrality, Brown has made it clear that he’s willing to push back against the federal government.

His actions have not been without consequences, though: the Justice Department has already filed suits to invalidate both the sanctuary state and net neutrality laws. While the laws remain in place for now, their futures cannot be guaranteed. Any pushes for even stricter gun control legislation would likely face similar resistance by proponents of the Second Amendment.

Regardless, Brown should use what time he has left in office to push for even stronger gun control legislation, especially as he prepares to exit office. With no need to appeal to voters for re-election, Brown has an opportunity to push for possibly controversial legislation.

However, the recent signings seem to imply that he is afraid of infringing upon the Second Amendment. While Brown approved numerous laws, he vetoed others, including one that would restrict people from purchasing more than one rifle or shotgun within a 30-day period. This provision would have directly limited buyers as opposed to giving law enforcement more authority, which pro-gun ownership groups could interpret as an effort to limit their Second Amendment rights.

However, if Brown wants to lead the way in reducing gun violence, he should strongly consider enforcing even stricter control.

Strong gun control policy is not an unknown concept. For example, Japan mandates extensive background checks for buyers in addition to numerous exams, assessments and classes. It’s excessive, and that’s the point — the bureaucratic slog is intended to deter all but the most driven individuals. More importantly, it works. Japan’s incidence of gun violence indicates as much: the U.S. has approximately 96 times as many violent gun deaths as Japan.

Similarly, Australia requires all purchasers to demonstrate a “genuine reason” for buying a gun such as a target shooting club membership, in addition to mandatory training. Australia’s incidence of gun violence is remarkably low, with approximately 3 gun-related homicides per million people as opposed to the United States’ 32.57.

Contrast this to the United States, where gun control laws vary between states. California features an extensive suite of laws, whereas Wyoming has exceedingly little. In Wyoming, neither purchase permits nor registration is required, open carry is fair game and fully-automatic weaponry can legally be sold. Not coincidentally, Wyoming experiences approximately 2.5 times more firearm-related deaths per 100,000 people than California. States like Wyoming, with nonexistent regulation, contribute to the fact that the United States is one of the six countries that make up half of the world’s gun deaths.

Fortunately, not all states are like Wyoming. Unfortunately, not every state is like California. But if Brown enacted even stronger gun control policies, California could act as a role model to other states, who may, in turn, bolster their own policies.

One way California could further its gun control agenda is to adopt policies similar to Japan’s and Australia’s. By prolonging the process of obtaining firearms and requiring buyers to defend the need for their purchase, Brown can further bolster California’s current laws, and even do so within the system. Policy built around lengthening the gun-purchasing process does not infringe upon the right to “keep and bear arms” as the Second Amendment states. While further legislation would still undoubtedly provoke the ire of the National Rifle Association (NRA), mirroring other countries’ laws gives Brown a foundation to work with and defend in court.

If the laws are ruled as unconstitutional, Brown’s legislative work will have been in vain. Nevertheless, the symbolic action of making an unrelenting push toward ending gun violence also cannot be underestimated. If California is able to show that strict legislation can work, then maybe that will be enough to inspire other states with legislation to strengthen their own laws. Considering that approximately 75 percent of Americans support further gun control legislation, according to NPR, it would be wise for legislators to heed the concerns of their constituents.

Brown and the California Legislature have the opportunity to set an example in the fight against gun violence. If other states follow their lead, the nation as a whole could benefit. However, it will take more than just California to institute stronger legislation across the country. In approaching midterm elections, voters can consider who, like Brown, will further the cause against gun violence and who will allow the status quo to continue. And when that status quo allows for shootings such as the one at Stoneman Douglas High School, the choice is clear.

Pablo Nukaya-Petralia is a junior politics and art and art history double major. He can be reached at pnukayapetra@oxy.edu.