New legislation tightens gun control in California and Maryland
Over the past few weeks, a new wave of gun control bills has been signed into law in California and Maryland.
California and Maryland already have some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. These include bans on certain semi-automatic rifles like the AR-15 and bans on magazines that hold more than ten rounds of ammunition.
Now, in the wake of high-profile mass shootings in 2018 such has the Marjory Stoneman Douglas school shooting in Florida, lawmakers in the state pushed through several new gun-related bills that were then sent to the governor's desk in each state.
Democratic governor Jerry Brown signed into law several gun control bills in California while simultaneously vetoing a handful of others.
Perhaps the most notable of the bills Governor Brown signed into law is one raising the age limit for purchasing long guns such as rifles and shotguns from eighteen to twenty-one, with exceptions for military service members and law enforcement officers. Currently, federal law allows those eighteen years of age or older to purchase long guns from a licensed dealer.
Another law signed by Governor Brown prohibits the possession of firearms for California residents who have been convicted of domestic violence charges, in addition to those who have been hospitalized for mental health reasons for at least one year.
Another bill makes it easier for law enforcement officers and family members to take firearms away from those believed to be a threat to themselves or to others.
All that said, Brown also vetoed bills that were passed by the Legislature. Most notably, he vetoed a bill that would have allowed school personnel or an individual's coworkers to petition a court to have that individual's firearms confiscated.
Brown argued that either law enforcement or immediate family members of the individual petitioning the court is sufficient for the time being. Under current California law, if a judge grants the request, gun-owners must surrender all their owned firearms for at least twenty-one days, during which time the judge would determine whether to extend the order for a year. The gun-owner would not be legally allowed to purchase guns or ammunition.
Three gun control bills were passed by the Maryland legislature and formally signed into law by Republican governor Larry Hogan, who is up for re-election this November.
The first bill was a ban on the sale and possession of bump stocks and similar devices that increase the firing rate on most common over-the-counter semiautomatic rifles, similar to laws passed in California, Hawaii, and Florida.
The second bill, known as a red flag law, allows family members, medical professionals, and police officers to restrict certain firearms (such as the popular AR-15 rifle) from Maryland residents deemed a threat to others or to themselves.
The third law closes a loophole in a previous Maryland law that did not require a convicted domestic abuser to turn in his firearms so long as those firearms were owned before conviction. With the loophole now closed, any Maryland resident who is a convicted domestic abuser will have to surrender his guns either to a licensed firearms dealer or to law enforcement, regardless of whether the guns were purchased before conviction or not.
The three new gun control bills represent the latest instance where the relatively centrist Hogan has shown that he is willing to break from his party on certain issues such as gun control. At a recent debate with Democratic challenger Ben Jealous, Hogan indicated his support for gun control and specifically for closing loopholes in Maryland's existing gun laws.
Maryland's and California's new gun control bills represent the latest tightening of already strict laws concerning firearms in those states.
With heavy Democratic majorities in the legislatures of both states, it's not at all difficult to see gun laws in those states tightening even more in upcoming years.