Police crime photos are displayed during a press conference near the site of yesterday's mass shooting on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 in San Bernardino, Calif. A husband and wife on Wednesday, dressed for battle and carrying assault rifles and handguns, opened fire on a holiday banquet for his co-workers, killing at least 14 people and seriously wounding more than a dozen others in a precision assault, authorities said. Hours later, the couple died in a shootout with police. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. | The deadly shooting in San Bernardino happened in a state with some of the nation’s toughest gun laws: California bars assault weapons, blocks the sale of large-capacity magazines and requires universal background checks for all gun purchases.

Authorities say they believe attackers Syed Rizwan Farook and wife Tashfeen Malik had legally obtained two handguns and that two rifles were also legally purchased in California. Federal officials say the attackers had large-capacity magazines that violate California law in their SUV.

Since the attack Wednesday at a social service center in Southern California, the state’s strict laws and the apparent legal purchase of the weapons have set off a debate over the effectiveness of gun measures and whether getting tougher would help prevent more violence.

“Strong gun laws do prevent gun deaths. Not every law can prevent every gun death,” said Allison Anderman, a staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco. “They work most of the time.”

The gun-control advocacy group rates California’s gun laws No. 1 in the nation; the state ranks 42nd in its rate of gun deaths. Louisiana’s gun laws were ranked 50th and it is No. 2 in deaths, according to the group’s 2014 rankings.

Gun laws vary dramatically state-to-state, even city-to-city. The patchwork of regulations means it’s often easy for determined gunmen to acquire weapons by skirting laws in their home state, they say. Untraceable weapons can be built from scratch using parts bought online.

As a result, gun control advocates in the days since the shooting have called for more stringent laws in California and nationwide. At least two state lawmakers say they will propose measures to close what they consider loopholes in the state’s gun laws.

Crime Prevention Research Center president John Lott, a critic of additional gun laws who is often cited by the gun lobby, argued that the shooting illustrates how expanded background checks supported by President Barack Obama do not stop mass public shootings.

He noted that California, Colorado and Oregon — sites of the three most recent shootings — already have such laws in place.

“We’re being told that even though these laws didn’t stop these attacks in these states, somehow they would work in the rest of the country,” he said. “I know the claim is, ‘we don’t expect it to do everything but it will do some.’ Maybe they could point to one case where these laws would make a difference.”

The FBI said Farook legally bought the two handguns used in the attack — purchases that would have required a background check. And there is no indication he or Malik had any criminal record or history of mental illness that would have triggered California’s unique law allowing authorities to seize weapons from those who aren’t allowed to own them.

Federal officials are investigating whether the military-style rifles used were part of an illegal straw purchase, possibly from a former neighbor of Farook, and then given to Farook or Malik.

California limited access to high-powered, military-style rifles in 1989 and lawmakers passed further restrictions in 2000, when the state banned specific types of AR-15 and AK-47 style rifles. It also bans the sale of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.

Legislation that would have banned so-called bullet buttons, which allow shooters to rapidly exchange empty magazines for ones fully loaded with bullets, stalled in the state Legislature two years ago.

David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, said it is foolish to draw policy conclusions based on the facts of one specific shooting when the U.S. has more than 30,000 gun deaths per year.

He questioned whether the assault-style rifles used in San Bernardino should be legal anywhere.

“Are those guns needed for self-defense? Are they needed for hunting? They can kill a lot of people, which they succeeded in doing,” he said.

Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, vetoed a bill in 2013 that sought to ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines, saying that he didn’t believe it would enhance public safety enough “to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights.”

The impression that California has strict gun laws is “based on fact, but in some cases it’s inaccurate,” said Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a fellow Democrat.

Newsom has proposed a ballot initiative that would require on-the-spot background checks when buying ammunition, ban the possession, not just the sale, of large-capacity magazines with 10 rounds or more and require police reports when guns are lost or stolen.

Those measures might not address the specific circumstances of what happened in San Bernardino, he acknowledged. But, he said, “that doesn’t mean they’re not appropriate proposals to address the next circumstance and the next moment.”


Associated Press writer Ryan J. Foley in Iowa City, Iowa contributed to this report.

24 replies on “California’s strict gun laws failed to stop mass shooting”

  1. Gun control laws are not written or become law to control guns. it is for the revenue in fees, permit charges, training charges, with state taxing (excessively) for all, repeatedly and is for control of the populace.
    —————-Many states would be bankrupt if not for this additional revenue. Colorado took in so much in drug taxes, and gun sales revenue, they had to go to public for vote of whether to return the excess, or keep it for more state spending. TABOR law in Colorado, with this occurring in 2003 and again in 2014. If not for TABOR, state legislators have no control over their taxing and spending, as long as they balance the state budget, each year.

    1. Quite a summation frank. I suppose you arrived at these obviously slanted comments on state taxation rubbing elbows with your buddies’ “both ways bob beauprez and 1Y tommy tancredo both draft dodgers during the Viet Nam War and both now has been political losers.

      Honestly frank. Get a grip! As an esteemed military guy, at least that’s what you keep reminding us of with each of your hour long stories not unlike the above, didn’t you know 1Y tommy was declared unfit for military service due to mental illness.

      1. Did you not know draft boards got their info from own means, and he took a prescription for couple of weeks for stress relief. Did you not know that those boards made the decisions based on opinions of the local police, the local doctor, the local ministers, and others.
        The individual in those days never knew why they wound up classified other than draft eligible. Are you that stupid, or do you want a leaf to hang your prejudice on? If draft came back now, 85% of our youth would be declared mental cases, due to tattoos, police records, drug records, arrest records, and mommas baby boy (or girl) who cannot do push-ups, pull-ups, run 50 feet with out having to sit down.
        Do you not realize that in todays world, only 1% of the eligible, of all who volunteer now, are serving, and that is decreasing with equestration. Decreasing the military to fewer than we had before WWII started. For someone who seemed to infer they had served, you did not learn much. Or you became radicalized after that service.

      2. And as for how I know of TABOR and the history of the Taxes in Colorado, I was in company of about 80 – 90 Veterans-Retirees in UVC meetings, where we met with the legislators, and the state officials, and we definitely opposed the keeping of TABOR funds in 2003 ;and 2015, since voters allowed the state to keep the funds.
        —— Those additional funds were not spent for what they stated, but were spent, adding to the base, from which TABOR allowed in the years since, more than the 6% or population growth. Don’t ever trust a liberal politician to not find back doors to bypass intent of the law. How stupid can the low information people get. When TABOR was first passed, all state agencies were funded accordingly. Then law was passed, to add more money for schools, so money was removed from schools, since they were getting funds from that separate law. Do you not understand, what you think you know so much about?
        I was more mobile then, and not having the heart or other problems of age and health. At that time I was Secretary to UVC, for entire state of Colorado, 2001 to 2005, and was honored by UVC in 2005 and by City of Aurora, as Volunteer Veteran of the year.
        What were you doing for the veterans, retirees, their families, and seniors. As well as all the working folks in between school and senior status?
        Easy to be critical. Seems to come natural to liberals.

        1. frank used to be more mobile. Is that physically or mentally mobile one has to ask. Judging from frank’s rather dubious conjecture, the former is more likely.

  2. “Louisiana’s gun laws were ranked 50th and it is No. 2 in deaths, according to the group’s 2014 rankings.”

    Most of the gun violence in LA is in New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Do people in these cities exercise their rights? I believe you cannot carry a weapon into an establishment that a serves alcohol which is about everywhere. So if you want to eat that day you will likely not carry. Being allowed to exercise your rights and not exercising them will not deter crime. Here is an article that delves a little deeper:


    “Louisiana’s demographics may also play into its high murder rate. Its population is more than 32% black, compared to a national average of 13%, and blacks are the most frequent victims of gun violence in America.”

    Perhaps the multigenerational bastardy in the black community caused by progressive liberal policies that promotes high gun violence in demoncrat run cities.

        1. The oracle speaks! He can actually make a sentence. A “dark golden man”. Sounds mythological! Is everyone suitably impressed?

          1. I bet you think I’m white just because I can spell and form intelligible sentences,
            but that’s just your inherent, progressive racism showing through.

          2. My inherent progressive racism. OK. So you’re black. Who cares! What’s intelligible sentences have to do with anything other than your egotistical need to appear superior. Right?

        1. dark gold boy apparently can’t speak for him/herself so resorts to posters and comic book charades. Go figure.

          This asinine graphic is actually hilarious.

Comments are closed.