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Why California’s One-Gun-A-Month Bill Is A Bad One

Why California’s One-Gun-A-Month Bill Is A Bad One

Photo credit: Michael Ives

Doubling down on last year’s “gunmaggedon” anti-gun atrocity, the California state Senate on Tuesday approved a measure expanding the state’s already onerous and ineffective gun rationing law—a move that will further restrict law-abiding gun owners while having no effect on violent criminals.

SB 497, sponsored by Democrat state Sen. Anthony Portantino, would expand the existing one-handgun-a-month law to include all guns. 

The legislation is obviously yet another attempt to place more costs and barriers on those exercising their Second Amendment rights. It does nothing to address the criminal misuse of firearms or firearm trafficking: Criminals, who generally acquire their firearms through illicit means, will continue to ignore California’s stringent laws, including limitations on the number of firearms that can be acquired within a 30-day period.

In fact, Gov. Jerry Brown—despite being no friend to the Second Amendment—vetoed similar legislation in 2016.

“Given California’s stringent laws restricting gun ownership, I do not believe this additional restriction is needed,” Brown wrote in his veto message.

Fact is, rationing the purchase of firearms isn’t a new thing at all. And it hasn’t proven to be effective at curtailing crime anywhere it has been tried.

In 1975, after a TV network news report portrayed South Carolina as the primary “source state” for handguns used in New York City crime, South Carolina lawmakers limited handgun purchases to one in a 30-day period.

The legislation is obviously yet another attempt to place more costs and barriers on those exercising their Second Amendment rights …Later, in 1993, when Virginia Gov. Doug Wilder, approaching the end of his term and desperate to attract attention from the media to further his national political ambitions, proposed a “one-gun-a-month” law for the Old Dominion. Wilder alleged that Virginia’s supposedly “lax” gun laws had caused it to become the primary “source state” for handguns used by criminals in Washington, D.C., and New York City.

In fact, neither of those contentions turned out to be true. After South Carolina imposed its law in 1975, violent crime soared in both New York City, the supposed beneficiary of the law, and in South Carolina. In the 1990s, violent crime declined nationally, but after Virginia imposed its law in 1993, homicide declined more in 12 other states than it did in D.C.—the supposed beneficiary of Virginia's law.

Both states later did away with the laws, with the help of the National Rifle Association.

There are a number of reasons why such laws don’t work to reduce violent crime—the largest of which is simply that criminals don’t obey laws, and very few law-abiding gun owners ever commit criminal violence. Consider:

— “One-gun-a-month” laws cannot be enforced without a law requiring all guns to be registered—another law that criminals would simply ignore since they are, by definition, law breakers.
— People who disobey laws against murder and other violent crimes certainly are not going to obey a law prohibiting them from buying a second gun in a 30-day period.
— Instead of preventing criminals from getting guns, “one-gun-a-month” primarily affects gun collectors, who buy matched sets of pistols, those with consecutive serial numbers, and the like.


Fact is, California’s current one-handgun-a-month law might make some people feel safer, but it doesn’t really make them safer. Adding long guns to the onerous restriction only further curtails the constitutional rights of lawful Californians.

Chris W. Cox, executive director of NRA’s Institute for Legislative Action, put it best back in 2004 when South Carolina repealed its ill-conceived one-gun-a-month law.

“NRA is pleased that the people of South Carolina will no longer be subject to this unreasonable gun rationing law—a law that has only affected honest gun owners and has never had any impact on crime,” Cox said at the time. “Gun rationing laws set a bad and unconstitutional precedent that government can limit the frequency with which a law-abiding citizen may exercise a constitutionally protected right. If governments can limit law-abiding citizens to one gun a month, they can extend it to one gun a year, one gun a lifetime, or no guns at all.”

Mark Chesnut has been the editor of America’s 1st Freedom magazine for nearly 17 years and is an avid hunter, shooter and political observer.

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