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Hypocrisy, Discrimination Characterize California-Style Gun Control

Monday, March 6, 2023

Hypocrisy, Discrimination Characterize California-Style Gun Control

As we mentioned just last week, California is a laboratory for oppressive and ineffective gun control. That was in the context of a bill that would punish financial service providers for refusing to discriminate against firearm manufacturers. This week gives us two more examples of how California uses gun control, not to pursue public safety, but as a tool of empty virtue signaling and official discrimination.

The first concerns San Jose’s much-ballyhooed effort to require firearm owners to carry firearm-specific “liability insurance,” which generated a great deal of self-serving puffery among its proponents, fawning media attention, and the inevitable legal challenges. As ever, the local taxpayers – whatever their views on the ordinance – are footing the bill for the city to defend the measure in court.

But for all the city’s insistence on the necessity of the ordinance and its supposed public safety benefits, the one thing it can’t be bothered to do is try to enforce it. As firearm-related media outlet The Reload reported last week, city officials “have not attempted to enforce their novel requirement that gun owners buy specialized insurance.” Not only has the municipality failed to issue any citations for non-compliance among its tens of thousands of gun owners, “officials have no idea whether anyone has actually bought the insurance they’ve mandated.” And, according to the report, they’re not even trying: “the city has effectively thrown in the towel on trying to track who is complying with the requirement.”

The city’s bright idea to ensure compliance with its requirement to carry insurance that may not even be available is to publish a form for gun owners to complete, attesting to their compliance with the law. But even then, they do not need to file this form with any public official. Rather, gun owners should keep it with the gun itself, to be produced upon demand. Or something.

Meanwhile, the ordinance also imposes an annual “harm reduction” fee on gun owners, the proceeds of which are supposed to fund a non-profit entity that is working to reduce “gun violence.” Not only has that fee also gone unenforced, The Reload reported, the entity it will be used to support has yet to be identified.

It may be that the city’s recalcitrance in putting its enforcement efforts where its big mouth is reflects a calculated judgement that doing so will count against it in the ongoing litigation. Or it may be that the proponents of the measure never really thought through its practicalities and are now admitting to themselves, if not the public, that it is unwise, unworkable, and not worth the investment of trying to implement.

To be clear, enforcement of San Jose’s ill-advised and unconstitutional ordinance would only compound the abuse of its original enactment. But even unenforced laws are not necessarily harmless. Indeed, the law-abiding gun owners of San Jose are still left with an untenable choice: ignore a law that could eventually carry penalties or expand their own resources to figure out a roadmap of compliance for themselves, when even local officials are unwilling to do so.

Either way, the choice forced upon them can only promote cynicism about the seriousness, competence, and good faith of those who promoted the ordinance. And it might even lead some to abandon the exercise of their constitutional right to arms, rather than risk ending up on the wrong side of a law that no one really seems to understand. That latter option, however, is likely the entire point of the ordinance: to suppress the right of gun ownership by making it all but impossible to do in compliance with the law, rather than to promote its safe and responsible exercise.

Along similar lines, another anti-gun California city hopes to discourage its residents from taking advantage of the constitutional right to bear arms recently enforced by the U.S. Supreme Court by charging them a king’s ransom to do so.

The Reload also reported last week that the La Verne Police Department announced that it would make a concealed carry application process available to local residents … or at least the most dogged and well-heeled among them who would be willing to expend over $1,000 for the two-year credential. Subsequent renewals of that permit, according to that article, would cost some $650. Among the reasons for initial permit’s sky-high cost would be a mandatory “department-approved psychological review,” mandatory training and finger-printing, and various “administrative,” “licensing,” and “processing” fees.

 As The Reload article points out, the Supreme Court in its recent Bruen decision invalidating New York’s may-issue concealed carry licensing regime specifically warned anti-gun jurisdictions against using any permitting or licensing requirement toward “abusive” ends. La Verne obviously did not get the message.

Of course, those who will suffer most from these exorbitant fees are the city’s lower, working, and middle-class residents, exactly the same people who are most likely to live or work in areas where the need for armed self-protection may be especially acute.  The overlap between gun control proponents and those who purport to promote economic and other types of “equity” is substantial. But when forced to choose, those same gun control proponents are apparently willing to prioritize the violation of the right to keep and bear arms over universal access to publicly-administered services and benefits.

Pro-gun advocates have already put La Verne on notice that its scheme does not comply with the Constitution and that continued non-compliance will result in litigation. Should that happen, hapless local taxpayers will once again bear the cost of funding local officialdom’s anti-gun defiance of the U.S. Supreme Court’s clear commands.

It’s bad enough that anti-gun jurisdictions in California are willing to abuse the Second Amendment rights of their own residents. But as San Jose and La Verne illustrate, some are willing to make a mockery of the rule of law itself in the process.

But they also do gun owners elsewhere a favor by illustrating the lengths gun controllers will go to suppress the Second Amendment where they feel emboldened to do so. Gun owners should take heed and work alongside the NRA to ensure the California model of gun control does nothing so much as generate pro-gun judicial precedent, rather than provide a roadmap for national gun control.

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Established in 1975, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA) is the "lobbying" arm of the National Rifle Association of America. ILA is responsible for preserving the right of all law-abiding individuals in the legislative, political, and legal arenas, to purchase, possess and use firearms for legitimate purposes as guaranteed by the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.