This November, Californians will have the opportunity to stand up for smart gun laws by voting "YES" on Prop 63. Three hundred fourteen Americans were killed or seriously injured by guns on the average day in 2014, the most recent year for which this data is available. Nearly 115,000 men, women, and children were shot that year, over 8,800 before reaching their 18th birthday. More than a million Americans were shot in the preceding decade. We need reasonable, common-sense gun safety regulations to stop this bloodshed.
California has led the nation in strengthening its gun safety laws and, as a result, the state has effectively cut its gun death rate by nearly 60 percent in the last twenty years. But there are still significant loopholes in our laws that leave us vulnerable to violence. Prop 63 will close these and other dangerous loopholes and help keep deadly weapons out of dangerous hands by enacting the following seven major gun safety reforms:
- Relinquishment of Firearms by Dangerous Criminal Offenders
The Problem: California law requires newly convicted felons, domestic abusers, and other dangerous offenders to sell or transfer their firearms after their conviction, but does little to ensure they actually do so. As a result, thousands of dangerous offenders illegally retain possession of deadly weapons every year. The consequences of this non-compliance are dangerous and costly. Though California requires law enforcement to go door-to-door to recover these illegal weapons, these efforts are dangerous, time-consuming, and expensive. It would be cheaper, safer, and more effective to remove offenders’ illegal firearms at the point of conviction. California has already implemented an effective law to ensure certain domestic abusers subject to a restraining order provide receipts to a court verifying that they relinquished their firearms; this process has made a major difference in preventing firearm-related domestic violence in our state. Prop 63 will extend this effective best practice to the criminal context.
Prop 63 will implement an effective process to proactively remove illegal guns from dangerous criminal offenders at the point of conviction. Prop 63 will require individuals convicted of serious crimes to sell or transfer their firearms to a gun dealer or law enforcement agency and will require them to provide receipts to court-assigned probation officers verifying that they actually did so. The probation officer will be required to notify the judge if the offender complied. If a judge finds that an offender failed to relinquish his or her firearms, the judge would issue a search warrant to remove these illegal guns from the offender’s possession. This is an overdue measure to proactively keep illegal guns out of our communities.
- Sales of Ammunition
The Problem: Bullets are an essential—and deadly—component of guns, but sales of this lethal product are entirely unregulated. Dangerous individuals can currently have unlimited quantities of ammunition delivered to their door, as if ordering a pizza, with no questions asked. A study found that just 10 Los Angeles retail outlets had sold over 10,000 rounds of ammunition to convicted felons and other illegal purchasers in just two months. In the wrong hands, every one of those bullets posed a significant threat to public safety in our state.
Prop 63 will help prevent ammunition from falling into dangerous hands by requiring individuals to pass a background check to buy this lethal product and by requiring sellers to obtain a standard business license to submit records of ammunition sales to law enforcement. To purchase ammunition, individuals will simply need to apply once every four years for a background check authorization using their driver’s license or other ID card number. Once they pass the background check, they will present their ID when purchasing ammunition; the seller will punch their number into a computer database, which will instantly notify the seller that the buyer has passed a background check to buy ammunition. The California Police Chiefs Association has stated that “requiring all ammunition vendors to obtain a license to sell ammunition and ammunition purchasers to submit to background checks . . . will effectively limit criminal access to the fuel that drives gun violence.” Prop 63 will also ensure that law enforcement can use ammunition sale records to more effectively solve and prevent gun crimes.
- Firearm Dealer Responsibilities
The Problem: Because gun dealers’ employees have access to such a high volume of firearms, corrupt or criminal employees are a major source of crime guns, responsible for “nearly half of the total number of trafficked firearms” uncovered in ATF investigations. However, California law does not require individuals to pass a background check in order to sell and handle weapons at a gun dealership.
Prop 63 will ensure gun dealers’ employees pass annual background checks in order to sell and handle deadly weapons and it will require gun dealers to notify law enforcement about the loss or theft of ammunition, as well as firearms, from their premises.
- Lost and Stolen Firearms
The Problem: Many straw purchasers falsely claim that their firearms were lost or stolen to conceal the fact that they intentionally supplied their weapons to criminals. However, because California law does not require individuals to notify law enforcement regarding a firearm loss or theft, they face few consequences for this behavior.
Prop 63 will help law enforcement identify and break up gun trafficking rings and return firearms to their rightful owners by requiring individuals to notify the police if their firearm has been lost or stolen. The first time a person fails to do so, he or she would face, at most, a minor fine similar to a speeding ticket, but Prop 63 provides targeted, escalating penalties for repeat offenders likely to be involved in gun trafficking. This policy has been enacted in 10 other states and at least 14 local jurisdictions in California, including San Francisco, Sacramento, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Where enacted, these laws have been shown to correlate with significant reductions in illegal gun trafficking; a study by Mayors Against Illegal Guns found that, per capita, these jurisdictions traffic 2.5 times fewer crime guns to other states.
- Large-Capacity Magazines:
The Problem: California has long made it illegal to purchase, transfer, and manufacture military-style, large-capacity magazines (LCMs). However, a loophole in this law, allowing continued possession of older or self-assembled LCMs, has made these restrictions nearly impossible to enforce. Some LCMs hold up to 100 rounds of ammunition, allowing shooters to kill and wound large numbers of people without having to pause to reload. The Legislature finally enacted a law in 2016 to close this loophole and prohibit possession of LCMs in our state.
Prop 63 will ensure that this policy remains on the books so these military-grade magazines are kept off our streets. Though a law passed by the Legislature can be repealed or watered down by gun lobby-backed lawmakers, only a subsequent voter initiative could weaken or repeal a voter initiative like Prop 63.
6. Strengthening Background Checks:
The Problem: California is currently one of the few states without a law requiring its officials to share relevant information about dangerous individuals with the FBI.
Prop 63 will ensure that California shares crucial data about dangerous people with the FBI and also maintains its own effective background check systems to prevent these individuals from obtaining weapons.
7. Firearm Theft:
The Problem: Firearm theft is a serious crime and a major source of weapons sold on the black market to illegal purchasers. However, Prop 47 has caused unintentional confusion among law enforcement officials about whether the theft of cheaper guns may be punishable as a felony and about whether individuals convicted of this crime are permitted to purchase or own firearms.
Prop 63 will clarify this confusion and ensure that firearm theft is punishable as a serious felony, regardless of the firearm’s market value. Prop 63 will also make it illegal for all individuals convicted of stealing firearms to purchase or possess firearms.