Ben Boychuk

Why California’s new gun laws deserve contempt

The arrival in 2017 of a raft of new gun control laws in California won’t amount to much, except more hassles for gun dealers and the law-abiding few.

Yes, “few.” When buying a handgun, rifle or shotgun, the vast majority of people naturally will follow the law. The cost of noncompliance is too high, and the inconvenience is too great. Unless your next-door neighbor happens to traffic in illegal weapons, odds are you will go to the gun store, fill out the paperwork, endure the waiting period and get on with your life.

But many otherwise law-abiding gun owners simply will not comply with the new rules on ammunition purchases and the ban on high-capacity magazines.

And why should they? The state lacks effective means of enforcing the new laws, which now ban the possession of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

After July 1, you will have just three legal options for disposing of these magazines: remove them from the state, sell them to a licensed dealer or turn them in to the police.

Or you will keep your mouth shut and keep your magazines stashed.

I do not advocate flouting the law. But nor do I advocate being naive. After July 1, tens of millions of illegal ammunition magazines will remain in private hands. And there is not much the state can do about it.

That’s the problem with sweeping and arbitrary bans. People have a much stronger incentive to resist than to comply. That’s what happened in Connecticut and New York after the Sandy Hook school massacre in 2012. Both states passed sweeping gun control laws requiring, among other things, registration of so-called assault weapons. Millions of guns remain unregistered.

And here we are not talking about actual weapons. Magazines are simply metal boxes with a spring inside. Even if the state had a way to collect existing magazines, new ones are not difficult to make on the cheap.

As for background checks and other new rules on ammo purchases (such as a ban on most internet sales), the state Department of Justice does not yet have the technology. Who wants to bet any system that is in place this time next year will make the hapless HealthCare.gov look like IBM’s chess-grandmaster-crushing Deep Blue?

True, voters in November overwhelmingly approved Proposition 63, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s ill-named Safety for All initiative. I am not inclined to complain too much. For one thing, voters make foolish decisions all the time, as every down-and-out Hillary Clinton voter will readily tell you.

For another, it’s a fair bet that some of Proposition 63 and its related rules and regulations will not withstand scrutiny from a Trump-era U.S. Supreme Court. Try as they might, California’s anti-gun elected officials cannot repeal the Second Amendment.

Newsom insists his measure will reduce gun violence. Probably not. Between 2009 and 2014, gun deaths and injuries fell consistently year over year even as sales skyrocketed. That only began to change about a year ago as the murder rate and violent crime in general began to tick up.

Any prosecutor or police chief who has not bought into the gun control mania could tell you why murder and other violent crimes are making a comeback, and it has nothing to do with too many high-capacity magazines or rifles with “bullet buttons.”

In reality, the crime resurgence tracks perfectly with realignment, which shifted tens of thousands of inmates from state prisons to county jails, as well as the passage in 2014 of Proposition 47, which made certain “nonviolent” felonies into misdemeanors.

So what’s the upshot? I have made the point many times, but it seems worth making again: The law is a teacher. What do contemptible laws teach if not contempt for the law?

Ben Boychuk is managing editor of American Greatness, a journal of conservative opinion. He can be contacted at b.boychuk.3@gmail.com.

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