California complies with all federal laws on who is permitted to own and not own firearms. We use strict background checks and the state Department of Justice keeps a database of firearm owners used by their agents to remove firearms from persons no longer legally allowed to have them. There is also a limit on numbers of firearms, a ten-day waiting period before clearance to possess, and recording and reporting requirements for sales. In 2016 the state also enacted laws to license ammunition dealers and to regulate the standards for sale of that ammunition. In 2019 dealers will have to do background checks for anyone not already cleared to carry concealed weapons and will have to report the buyers’ identities and types of ammunition purchase. Further legislation will limit ownership of large-capacity magazines – the types used in so many recent mass shootings across the country – and created a penalty for failure to report lost or stolen firearms to police.
Proposition 63, if passed, will replace some of these provisions with tighter ones. It will require permits to purchase and permits to both buy and sell ammunition from individuals and dealers. It will prohibit bringing ammunition in from out of state without it passing though licensed dealers first. It creates a stronger set of regulations for removing guns from people who are convicted of offenses that prohibit them from owning firearms at all. It tightens reporting on sales, loss, theft and, while it reduces the time of forfeiture for failing to report, it requires the name of the offender to be submitted to the list of prohibited persons at the national registry. More important, the sale of large capacity magazines (above 10 rounds of ammunition) will be banned for sale to most people. Those who had such magazines before 2000 may retain them unless they have a firearm that operates only with such magazines.
In all civil society, rights are cherished. However, there are limitations on time and place for any right – even free speech – that may be enacted for the General Welfare. The plague of mass shootings made possible by the existence of ever-greater weapon capacity can be regulated with judicious oversight that controls but does not eliminate the right. This is a balance between the right to bear arms and the right of the general public to walk and live freely in society.