Attorney General Bonta Takes Aim at Gun Rights

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Commentary

California politicians again are taking a bead on our Second Amendment “right to keep and bear arms.” The latest fusillade came from Attorney General Rob Bonta’s March 17 Weekly Update, which he ought to switch from Sunday to Monday so political writers like me can get a rest.
“Our country is being held hostage by an epidemic of gun violence and a gun industry that’s all too happy to profit off of it,” he warned. But actions cannot hold anyone “hostage,” only people can. And as to an “epidemic,” according to data from the Centers for Disease Control, suicides make up a significantly larger number of gun deaths than homicides.

I’m sorry about the suicides. I wish people wouldn’t do that. But the wrong choice they make shouldn’t be an excuse for taking away the gun rights of the living. And if they can’t get guns, those intent on harming themselves will use knives, pills, or jump off bridges.

As to homicides, they have been trending downward in recent years. But let’s go back a few years and look at why crime started jumping after 2015.

According to Wikipedia: “The Ferguson effect is an increase in violent crime rates in a community caused by reduced proactive policing due to the community’s distrust and hostility towards police. The Ferguson effect was first proposed after police saw an increase in violence following the 2014 shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The term was coined by Doyle Sam Dotson III, the chief of the St. Louis police, to account for an increased murder rate in some U.S. cities following the Ferguson unrest. Whether the Ferguson effect really exists is subject of discussions with many published studies reporting contradicting findings concerning whether there is a change in crime rates, number of 911 calls, homicides, and proactive policing. …

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“In 2015, Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago, suggested nationwide backlash against police brutality led to officers disengaging, which, in turn, led to violent crime increasing.”

According to the data, a sharp leap in homicides occurred during and after the 2020 Antifa-BLM riots, when police again backed off enforcing laws against crime. Antifa, by the way, is a communist group. The Epoch Times reported in February 2021 shortly after the riots, “Antifa is both an ideology and a movement that uses intimidation and violence to oppose capitalism and anybody who disagrees with its far-left, anarchist political agenda, says journalist Andy Ngo, an expert on the anarcho-communist group.”

So Mr. Bonta and other left-wing law enforcement officers may be partially responsible for failing to enforce laws already in place, yet they want to pass new laws to grab the guns of law-abiding citizens?

As to gun-industry “profits,” Remington, the country’s oldest gunmaker, went bankrupt in 2019. In February 2022 it was held liable for the Sandy Hook mass shooting and forced to pay $73 million. Even though its only “responsibility” was making guns used by the killer; that’s like holding a car company responsible when a driver uses a vehicle for mass murder. Last December, Remington closed its New York factory.
“It’s become our new normal to regularly hear about mass shootings on the news, to scope out emergency exits at the movies, and to worry about our children at school,” Mr. Bonta wrote. But as gun scholar John Lott testified before Congress in December 2022, 94 percent of mass public shootings occur in places where guns are banned.
That means banning more guns will only encourage more mass shooters to kill more people, because they know there will be fewer armed, law-abiding citizens to stop them. According to a study by the Trace updated last December, there are “about 377 million guns in circulation” in the United States, more than its 340 million population. Even if Mr. Bonta could get rid of tens of millions of guns, that still would leave hundreds of millions of guns around the country. And criminals, obviously, would not follow any new gun laws, any more than they do gun laws already on the books.

Unconstitutional California Gun Laws

All any new gun laws would do is disarm future victims. Yet Mr. Bonta boasts, “At California DOJ, we are getting illicit guns off our streets through our Armed and Prohibited Persons Program; we’re defending our nation-leading, commonsense gun laws; and we’re advocating for stronger federal regulations to tamp down on dangerous ghost guns.”

Many of these laws are being thrown out by federal judges. Here are three judicial actions; albeit they’re all under appeal:

  • This month, federal Judge William Hayes struck down the state law, updated in 2021 and 2024, allowing only one gun purchase a month. He called it a violation of the Second Amendment.
  • In February, federal Judge Andrew G. Schopler threw out the misnamed Firearm Industry Responsibility Act, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom in 2022, and which allowed lawsuits against gunmakers of “abnormally dangerous firearms.” The judge did not do so on Second Amendment grounds. Instead, he said it violated the Interstate Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which allows only Congress to regulate trade among the states. If this law is allowed to stand on appeal, then Michigan could target California-made Teslas as “abnormally dangerous vehicles” due to recent cars catching fire, which would help its own Detroit-based automakers.
  • Last December, federal Judge Cormac Carney blocked a new California law banning carrying firearms in most public places as “sweeping, repugnant to the Second Amendment, and openly defiant of the Supreme Court.” He was referring to the 2022 Bruen decision which affirmed a personal right to carry a firearm in most places, excluding such obvious exceptions as in a courtroom. Indeed, as Mr. Lott frequently points out, mass shooters commonly are stopped only when an armed policeman or a legally armed private citizen takes out the shooter.

Conclusion: It’s California That Violates the Law

Clearly, it is the California government itself that is the main lawbreaker, flagrantly violating the supreme law of the land, the U.S. Constitution. The Second Amendment: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

And as Justice Clarence Thomas’s majority opinion clearly explained, the Second Amendment is not just for a “militia,” but is “the right of the people”—that is, all adults not convicted of felonies. And he cited the Fourteenth Amendment, as well, which guaranteed the “equal protection of the laws,” in particular that of freed slaves.

After the Civil War, Mr. Thomas noted, regarding gun rights, “the exercise of this fundamental right by freed slaves was systematically thwarted. … In the years before the 39th Congress proposed the Fourteenth Amendment, the Freedmen’s Bureau regularly kept it abreast of the dangers to blacks and Union men in the postbellum South. The reports described how blacks used publicly carried weapons to defend themselves and their communities.”

The California laws touted by Mr. Bonta and signed recently by Mr. Newsom also, therefore, are violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and civil rights laws guaranteeing minorities the same rights to defend themselves as everyone else. Thus, these gun laws also are “repugnant” to our American system of personal rights and equal protection.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

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