Editorial: California gun laws under threat by right-wing Supreme Court

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California’s long history of promoting public safety by embracing reasonable restrictions on guns is under threat by a Supreme Court thatput its ideology above common-sense efforts to reduce the risk of violence and death.

The court’s ruling Thursday by the conservative majority strikes down a New York law restricting the issuance of concealed-carry permits for handguns and sets a precedent that essentially invalidates a similar law in California. State lawmakers immediately announced plans to alter California’s law to conform to the decision, which held that requiring people to demonstrate a specific reason for seeking a concealed weapon permit is unconstitutional.

Legislation being drafted would require people seeking concealed weapon permits to undergo background checks and safety training and, as the court’s decision allows, would outlaw carrying concealed guns at places such as schools and courthouses. While that’s important, the court’s dangerously broad decision may lead to more legal challenges that will further erode California’s strong gun safety laws.

That would not only be an affront to voters who have passed state laws limiting firearms and elected leaders who campaigned on their commitments to gun control, but it may also put California communities at risk of increased violence.

Evidence shows that states with stronger gun laws also have fewer murders and suicides by firearms. Research published in 2020 found that restricting concealed-carry permits was one of three policies that could help reduce gun deaths by more than 10%. It’s an abomination that the Supreme Court is making it harder for states to keep people alive.

The decision comes at a perilous time in the United States, as gunshots have become the leading cause of death for American children and as the number of guns in the country exceeds the number of people. Back-to-back mass shootings that killed 10 people at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y., and 19 children and two teachers in two fourth-grade classrooms in Uvalde, Texas, have left the nation so distressed and in grief that even the obstinate U.S. Senate has been moved to act.

After refusing for many years to update American gun laws even as the carnage mounted, the Senate was poised Thursday to pass bipartisan legislation to add dating partners to a federal law that prohibits domestic abusers from purchasing guns, enhance background checks for gun buyers between 18 and 21 years old, incentivize states to pass “red flag” laws that allow courts to confiscate firearms from dangerous people, and provide hundreds of millions of dollars for mental health and school safety. These are welcome measures, but they represent only a modest common-sense move, not the kind of sweeping changes the country needs to keep people safe.

It’s hard to feel inspired by the Senate’s action with a right-wing Supreme Court undermining that action by further restricting states’ ability to pass gun safety laws.

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