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Can California Gun Laws Get Any Tighter After New Mass Shootings?

The mass shooting in Monterey Park, Ca., has led to new calls to tighten Califonia’s gun laws. The gun used in the Saturday attack was likely illegal to possess in California, and it’s not clear whether the gunman obtained it by legal means, reports Vox.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Robert Luna said the shooter opened fire at a dance studio, leaving 11 dead and another nine injured, using a magazine-fed semiautomatic assault pistol with an extended high-capacity magazine attached. Police recovered the weapon after the operator of a second dance studio in Alhambra, two miles north of Monterey Park, disarmed the gunman when he walked in the door, apparently with the intention of shooting more people.

The attack has rocked the area’s predominantly Chinese American community amid Lunar New Year celebrations and increasing violence against Asian Americans.

It’s not clear how the shooter obtained the gun, a Cobray M11 9mm semi-automatic weapon compatible with 30-round magazines. It’s also not clear whether the shooter legally obtained a second weapon recovered from inside his van — a handgun that he used to fatally shoot himself. The second weapon can be bought in California; the first has been banned in the state for more than three decades.

That the semi-automatic weapon is illegal in the state makes California unusual; such weapons can be legally purchased in the majority of the U.S. And that’s led California politicians to call not just for stronger laws in the state, but across the nation.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who has signed some of the nation's strictest gun control measures, said that the shooting should encourage the rest of the nation to follow California’s lead.

“No other country in the world is terrorized by this constant stream of gun violence. We need real gun reform at a national level,” he tweeted Sunday.

California ranks first in the nation for the strength of its gun laws, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, which advocates for gun control. Its laws are so extensive that there are questions about how much tighter state lawmakers could make them without running afoul of extensive legal challenges, like those facing Illinois’s new gun control measures.

In part due to its current laws, California’s gun violence rate is relatively low: data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that just 8.5 per 100,000 people in the state died at the end of a gun in 2020, compared with an average of 13.7 nationally.

California is one of only eight states to ban assault weapons like the one used in the shooting, which are designed to kill efficiently, without a shooter having to reload frequently. Most Americans support banning assault-style weapons, including 83 percent of Democrats and 37 percent of Republicans, according to an April 2021 survey by Pew Research.

There is a chance that the California gunman, who was 72 years old, may have obtained the gun used in the shooting before the ban went into effect, allowing him to maintain possession under a grandfather clause in the law. The shooter also could have obtained the gun legally out of state, or illegally from a gun trafficker.


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