Monday, July 17, 2023






        There’s a reason why California has seen fewer mass shootings in recent years than other places like Texas and Kentucky: This state still bans private ownership of military-style AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.


        Those were the weapons used in school massacres from Sandy Hook in Connecticut to Uvalde, Texas. An AR-15-like gun was used to kill eight in early May in Allen, Texas. The mass killing list goes on, growing steadily, and now stands at record levels for any single year.


The good news for Californians interested in keeping this state safer than many others is that early this spring, a state appeals court in Sacramento found a way around the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that struck down some state laws that restricted  concealed weapons carry to people who could demonstrate a specific need to bear arms for self-defense.


But in its mid-May ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal said high capacity rifles like AR-15s, which can be fired repeatedly without reloading, are “not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes.”


That contradicts the reasoning of the National Rifle Assn. (NRA), which has often claimed AR-15s are primarily used for hunting. No one contends these are not used for hunting, but the appeals court said that does not mean they’re not “dangerous and unusual” weapons, which a 2008 Supreme Court ruling still allows states to regulate.


Last year’s decision by the new, more conservative Supreme Court majority and written by the ethically compromised Justice Clarence Thomas, did not deal with this issue.


The Sacramento-based appeals court ruled in the case of Alex Bocanegra, a San Jose man who drove to the Central Valley city of Manteca to fire an AR-15 style gun at the home of a former friend then in a relationship with Bocanegra’s wife. That is one of the specific situations California legislators discussed before passing the state’s 30-year-old ban on many such weapons.


This discussion came about the time when California U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein authored a similar federal ban that significantly reduced mass shootings for the 10 years it was in force after being signed by then-President Bill Clinton.


But the California law is currently threatened by gun interests around the nation who claim last year’s Supreme Court ruling invalidates assault weapons bans even though it did not mention them or negate the language of the 2008 decision. A federal appeals court in New Orleans early this year endorsed this interpretation, saying specific gun bans like California’s are “not part of U.S. historical tradition.”


Of course, neither are mass shootings in schools, homes, banks and stores, all of which have been occurring very frequently since the 1994 federal law expired without much hope for renewal by a Congress under heavy NRA influence. One published count of multiple-shooting episodes claimed 242 occurred around the nation in just the first five months of this year.


It's possible the California appeals court decision may not stand even a year, especially if the Supreme Court takes up one or more cases involving AR-15s and other semi-automatic weapons.


And yet… even the majority Republican legislators in Texas, long opposed to gun controls, this spring backed an increase from 18 to 21 in the minimum age for buyers of AR-15s and their clones. This was the direct result of the Uvalde and Allen killings, plus another incident in Cleveland, Texas where five died in an immigrant-on-immigrants shooting.


So there is the possibility the steady horror of this year’s early months will move both courts and politicians to moderate anti gun-control stances at least somewhat.


Meanwhile, the Sacramento appeals court ruling is binding on most other California courts unless or until the state Supreme Court or a federal appeals court overturns it.


This may afford some greater degree of safety for awhile for Californians compared with residents of other states that often resist gun controls. But only so long as it’s not countermanded by higher courts.

     Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is

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