Dan Walters

Dan Walters: Legislature’s anti-gun crusade runs afoul of Bill of Rights

As the California Legislature churned toward adjournment this week, it was considering – as usual – new laws to inhibit gun ownership, adding to what are already, for better or worse, the nation’s most restrictive gun controls.

The centerpiece of this year’s array of gun control bills is one that would allow police or family members to seek court orders to confiscate guns from people they believe to be prone to violent acts.

It was introduced in response to a shooting and stabbing spree earlier this year by a mentally disturbed young man in Isla Vista, home to a University of California campus, that left the killer and six others dead.

Californians already have upward of 20 million firearms, but ownership is regarded as a secular sin by those on the political left – hence a steady stream of measures, on any pretext, to make buying and owning guns more difficult and more expensive.

Advocates say strict gun laws prevent violent or criminal acts, but there is no empirical evidence that they do. And at some point restrictions on law-abiding gun owners run afoul of the constitutional right to bear arms that the U.S. Supreme Court has reinforced in recent rulings.

Earlier this year, a federal appellate court ruled that California’s sheriffs and police chiefs cannot arbitrarily deny concealed weapons permits without violating constitutional rights and declared, in effect, that an upright citizen who meets reasonable standards of competency has a right to a permit.

Just a few days ago, federal Judge Anthony Ishii, who sits in Fresno, declared that the 10-day waiting period that California imposes on gun buyers is unconstitutional if the buyers already have acquired firearms legally or possess concealed weapon permits.

It’s apparent from Judge Ishii’s lengthy ruling that the state offered a very weak defense of universally applying the 10-day rule, since he repeatedly used the phrase “there is no evidence” to characterize rationales offered for the law by state attorneys.

One argument Ishii dismissed was truly bizarre. The state’s attorneys contended that since firearms manufacturing and delivery methods were slow in 1791, when the Bill of Rights was adopted, there was a de facto waiting period for firearms, thereby justifying a legal waiting period now.

Ishii’s ruling was the second legal victory this year for gun industry and gun owner groups that oppose the Legislature’s ceaseless attempts to make gun ownership more difficult and expensive.

They routinely say during hearings that the pettifogging gun restrictions the politicians want to impose violate the Bill of Rights, but their warnings are routinely ignored by those who profess to be civil rights champions.

Federal judges, however, appear to be telling legislators that if they take their anti-gun obsession too far, they’ll be slapped down.