California gun laws and the Las Vegas shooting

People gather in Las Vegas to mourn the victims of the Oct. 1 mass shooting. (Photo: Pulsipher Photography, Shutterstock)

With the toughest gun laws in the nation, California has a few regulations on the books that potentially could have lessened the carnage in the Las Vegas shooting if those laws had been enacted in Nevada.

California outlaws bump stocks and large-capacity magazines, both of which shooter Stephen Paddock used to kill 58 people and wound more than 500 Oct. 1 at a country music festival on the Las Vegas strip.

“Gun laws haven’t eradicated gun violence but they sure make the difference.” — Ari Freilich.

While there is no evidence at this point that it would have prevented the tragedy, California also has a gun violence restraining order law that allows family members and law enforcement officers to ask a court to temporarily restrict someone they believe is dangerous from possessing guns.

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a national organization based in San Francisco, contends that gun laws do reduce fatal shootings.

“Gun laws haven’t eradicated gun violence but they sure make the difference,” said Ari Freilich, a staff attorney at the center. “Other states can look to California as a model of what can be done.”

Nevada has weak laws compared to California, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In its gun law scorecard, the center gave Nevada a C- while California got an A.

In 1993, California recorded nearly 5,500 gun-related fatalities. At that time, the center says in a fact sheet, the state had weak restrictions and California’s gun death rate was higher than the national average.

“All of us who cherish freedom recognize that California’s political environment has grown more hostile to the Second Amendment in recent years.” — NRA

Fast forward to 2015 after numerous stricter gun laws were enacted: The state counted 3,095 gun deaths, a drop of 56 percent in 22 years.

California’s restrictive gun legislation has been and continues to be fought by the National Rifle Association of America, which sees the laws as threatening individual choice.

“All of us who cherish freedom recognize that California’s political environment has grown more hostile to the Second Amendment in recent years,” says a statement on the group’s website. “But we won’t back down. With all of us fighting against the tide, we can restore our firearms freedom.”

The NRA didn’t respond to an email request for an interview about whether stronger gun laws might have prevented the Las Vegas shooting.

California’s move to pass tougher gun laws began after the 1989 school yard shooting in Stockton when a gunman killed five children and wounded 32 others.

Twenty-three firearms were recovered in Paddock’s hotel suite and 12 of those were semi-automatic rifles outfitted with bump stocks.

Bump stocks were prohibited by California in the early 1990s. A bump stock is an attachment that enables a semi-automatic rifle to fire as fast as a fully automatic weapon. Without bump stocks, the Las Vegas shooter wouldn’t have been able to cause so many fatalities, said Amanda Wilcox, state policy chair for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

“Clearly there would be fewer casualties if you couldn’t maintain rapid fire,” she said.

Large-capacity magazines are also generally illegal in California. In this state, you have to pause to reload after 10 rounds. While the reload time is short – just a few seconds – it gives people a chance to run away to safety, Wilcox said. Audio of the Las Vegas shooting show that the shooter fired many more rounds in a row than that.

The shooter didn’t have to reload because he had several guns set up ready to go. News reports said 23 firearms were recovered in Paddock’s hotel suite and 12 of those were semi-automatic rifles outfitted with bump stocks.

While it may not have worked in Paddock’s case, California’s relatively new gun violence restraining order, which went into effect in 2016, could be helpful in preventing shootings. So far, there have been no reports that those close to Paddock knew he was planning such a horrible attack. But sometimes, family members can see signs that a relative is on the verge of going on a gun rampage.

The law was passed in response to the Isla Vista shooting in May 2014 when a young man killed six people and injured 14 near the campus of the University of California at Santa Barbara. The shooter did exhibit warning signs of coming violence but there were no legal means at that time for his parents or law enforcement to take action.

Garen Wintemute, director of the newly created University of California Firearm Violence Research Center at UC Davis’ Sacramento campus, said it’s important to remember that public mass shootings count for only 1 to 2 percent of all firearm deaths in the United States.

While the Las Vegas shooting accounted for 58 deaths, nationwide an average of 97 people each day die due to firearm violence, including homicide and suicide.

He also pointed out that the circumstances of each mass shooting are different.  “Strategies to prevent the last one may not play into preventing the next one,” he said.

Wintemute believes any policies developed to prevent shootings will need to be broad to have a significant effect.

“It’s important for us to remember our obligation as a society is not just to prevent one type of violence but to try to prevent all of it,” he said.

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  • Bob

    Guns are a historical part of our society, why not just teach gun safety?

  • Richard DelTran

    Okay, hold on, 5500 gun deaths in 1993, and in 2015 the number is 3095, and then you go on to say that’s a drop of 56 percent. Okay here’s proof that common core math is not working. Another thing, I have no problem with gun control, we have to be able to regulate gun purchasing so that unstable people and persons with felonies can not purchase them, but the flaw is that criminals don’t obey laws and they don’t purchase them legally, that and we aren’t an island, sooo. I mean you can’t own assault weapons or have high capacity magazines, but tell that to the two CHP officers and one Sacramento deputy that were shot, and the deputy killed by an AK wielding criminal who did not walk into a gun store to buy it. And with all this gun control, we’re still at 3095, yeah it working great! Gun ownership is a constitutionally protected right, driving and owning a motor vehicle is not, yet approximately 30, 000 people die each year in the US from motor vehicles, I don’t see the big push to ban those.

    • Another Andrew

      Don’t forget about San Bernardino, perfect example of laws in place and the complete disregard when contemplating mass murder. They reach out and got everything they needed from rifles, standard cap magazines and knowledge of removing CA compliance devices like the bullet button and conversion to full auto weapons.

  • RetiredR2D2

    What these anti-gun people do not seem to understand is that criminals do not obey our laws. By enacting these strict gun laws all they are doing is making criminals out of good, honest, law abiding citizens who simple want to protect themselves from the criminals.

  • PBinLosAngeles

    During the period De Leon was trumpeting his SB 1235 ammunition tripe around the State, I called his office and asked to speak with – if available – any his aids, who’d been working closely with the senator on that particular bill. After a brief period on hold, a pleasant sounding woman’s voice came on the line. I explained the nature my call, and she verified that she had indeed been closely involved with that bill. I asked if she was aware that right then, that very day, in the city of Los Angeles a consumer purchasing ammunition must – whether it be game loads for a shot gun, .22 rim fire, and or anything in between – provide valid photo ID to the salesperson(?) Further, I explained, the information on the ID is then transcribed by the salesperson onto a roster. I asked further: “Did you know that the consumer must also sign the roster and apply their right thumbprint next to their signature?” Not surprisingly, De Leon’s aid was COMPLETELY unaware of this requirement in their own district! I had a near identical conversation with an aid to then State Senator Isadore Hall (D-Compton) – Hall had bee seen on television “High-Fiving” De Leon when Bitter Brown signed that bill.
    The frightening fact remains, this reckless behavior in Sacramento constitutes a much larger, arrogant political ideology in which anointed elites impose their own notions – in utter disregard of the laws passed by the voters’ elected representatives – upon the tax payers of California. This dynamic, ladies and gentlemen, is a very real, very scary, and very much daily occurrence in Sacramento and further constitutes a very real threat to the democratic freedom we so much cherish in this great Nation. The grotesque arrogance of “Bitter” Brown, De Leon, and Ricardo Lara et el prompts the obvious question: What other laws are these schnooks passing, with no due diligence or even fundamental research being conducted, much less any consideration for what may be best for the American people?!!

  • PBinLosAngeles

    It is an undeniable fact that the proverbial “deranged mass shooter” – without exception – seems to retain enough mental competency with which to select targets wherein the victims will more than likely – and in the Vegas example definitely – be unarmed and thereby, defenseless. We don’t see the likes of Seung-Hui Cho or Adam Lanza shooting up NRA meetings or bursting into the awards ceremony at The Hartford Gun Club!
    The crux of liberal ideology on this subject can best be summed up in final quote of the piece, attributed to Wintemute: “not just to prevent one type of violence but to try to prevent all of it”
    What gun control advocates really want is human behavior control, and 21st Century science tells us that isn’t going to be a capability anytime soon; the Constitutional ramifications of such “control” notwithstanding. What these schnooks further ignore or fail to comprehend, is the fact that the most heinously vicious killers in the recorded history of our great Nation, including Gary Ridgway – who savagely murdered more people by himself than were lost at Columbine, Aurora, Sandy Hook, and San Bernardino combined – never used a firearm during the commission of their brutality.
    John Wayne Gacy, Jeffrey Dahmer, Ted Bundy, Edward Gein, Donald Harvey, Lawrence Bittaker, Roy Norris, Kenneth Bianchi, Angelo Buono, OJ Simpson and on and on. The list of murder-intent monsters – who never used a firearm – is a horrifically long one.
    That list – by the way – continues to silently grow each and every day….

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