Are California’s top-ranked gun control laws truly effective?


Ella Chen, Editor in Chief, Design

Not even two months into 2023, California has already seen nine mass shootings that have resulted in the deaths of 32 people, according to the Gun Violence Archive. From the Monterey Park shooting that killed 11 people celebrating on the eve of the Lunar New Year to the Oakland and Half Moon Bay shootings, these incidents of extreme violence have left communities affected as well as many throughout the entire nation grieving, devastated and fearful. California’s gun control legislation is some of the strictest nationwide, receiving an A grade on Gifford’s Law Center’s 2021 Annual Gun Law Scorecard for having the strongest gun laws in the United States. However, this legislation has not prevented the recent mass shootings and begs the question: are California’s gun control laws enough?

In 2022, Governor Gavin Newsom signed legislation that further regulates untraceable firearms, holds members of the firearm industry accountable, outlaws the marketing of firearms to minors and more. One of the most notable recently enacted laws includes S.B. 1327, coined the ‘Bounty-Hunter gun law,’ which bans the manufacture and distribution of assault firearms and precursor parts and guns without serial numbers.

As a result of having some of the strictest gun laws nationwide, California’s gun death rate is the 44th lowest in the country, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These revolutionary gun laws in California include a ban on military-style assault firearms since 1989 and an age requirement of 18 years to purchase a shotgun or rifle and 21 years to purchase a handgun. Despite California’s everchanging and progressing legislation, some feel that gun control laws are ineffective.

“Our local legislation is not doing enough if [over] 19 people have died in the past months due to gun violence,” Catie Crehan ‘25 said. Crehan believes that gun control laws lack strength both in California and nationwide. “I will not be fully satisfied with California’s gun laws until there are no more guns,” said Crehan.

While California is one of the hardest states to purchase a gun in due to mandated background checks, selling restrictions on firearm industry members and other legislation, the sheer large population of the state can make incidents of gun violence seem inevitable. History and Service Learning teacher Kristjiana Gong said, “We’re still going to see more mass shootings in California until we stop seeing mass shootings in the United States because we have a large population.”

Gong also pointed out that despite restrictions, access to firearms in California may appear comparatively easier than access to some essential needs. “It’s easier for me to legally get access to multiple guns at multiple levels in California than it is for me to get consistent, reliable access to drugs that I have medically been designated to have a legitimate need for access to,” said Gong.

Asher Albers ‘26 who believes that statewide gun control legislation needs to act preemptively rather than as a counter to gun violence said, “I think California gun control laws do a pretty good job overall but need more proactive legislation and to try to stay ahead of the wave of mass shootings, not just respond to it.” Albers also highlighted that in addition to enacting effective legislation, solutions lie in looking at the systemic roots of gun violence. “We as a country have to ask ourselves: what has driven these individuals to perpetrate these horrific acts? We need to ask ourselves how, even after all these regulations and control, it keeps happening,” said Albers.

In California, upon turning 18 and completing eight hours of firearm training, a person may apply for a Concealed Carry Weapons License (CCW), which allows the owner to lawfully carry a concealed firearm in public. Exceptions to being able to obtain a CCW include having a history of violent or fraudulent crimes as well as drug addiction. “I don’t feel comfortable walking by anyone on the street who has a gun and I am confused on why after various shootings in California the government continues to make gun laws less restrictive, [such as] allowing CCWs,” said Crehan.

As instances of mass shootings in the news become increasingly more common, California must continue to implement stricter gun control laws. “I think about how much more quickly we move on from school shootings every time… and mass shootings. Death is so common,” said Gong. “California likes to think that we make the most liberal decisions and things are going [great]. But I don’t know that I am of the belief that big liberal changes actually happen all that often.”