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News & Editorials

California Steps Up Assault on Gun Owners
Will YOUR State Be Next?

By Ed Apple

January 14, 2001

Senators Scott and Perata have introduced a handgun-licensing bill that would be the most draconian gun law in the country. What follows below applies only to handgun purchasers and not dealers; because that's a whole 'nother story.
The relevant section is "SEC. 3 Article 3.5 (commencing with Section 12060) is added to Title 2 of Part 4 of the Penal Code, to read: Article 3.5. Handgun Safety License"

The text of the bill can be found at:

The next action on this bill could be on or after January 18, 2001, so time is short to call, write, or e-mail your elected official, or you could do all three.

If passed in to law, this bill would go into effect on July 1, 2002.

Among other things made illegal would be to 

"purchase, …receive through gift, loan, transfer, or bequest, a handgun… without a handgun safety license."

No license could be issued to anyone under the age of 21; it 

"would establish an application procedure for obtaining a handgun safety license, including a written test, safe handling demonstration, and a basic shooting proficiency demonstration."

This law would impose various duties on the local law enforcement agencies, making it a state mandated program, which would include not just a background check when you apply for the license, but annual background checks.

The language of this bill says it all when it states: 

"By creating new crimes, this bill would impose a state-mandated local program."

The less law-abiding gunowners in California, the better; if they can't outlaw guns they'll simply make us all criminals by passing so many laws that no one can obey them all.

Currently, you have to have a "basic firearms safety certificate" or be a veteran to buy a handgun in California. I wonder how gang-bangers/criminals have a "basic firearms safety certificate," or a DD-214?

Beginning July 1, 2002, instead of needing a basic firearms safety certificate, you would have to take a safe handling and shooting proficiency test to obtain a handgun safety license. 

It doesn't say where you would take the test, or what the requirements would be; anti-self-defense and anti-Second Amendment law enforcement departments, like the LAPD, could make the testing so rigorous, that even expert shooters would have a hard time passing it. Those same departments could make the place and timing of the shooting test so inconvenient that most people would just give up.

SB 52 would also make other changes, including changes "relating to the transfer or loan of firearms by firearms dealers and others, the violation of which is an offense. By changing these requirements, this bill would change the definition of existing crimes, and thereby impose a state-mandated local program."

To get a handgun license, you would need to provide:

  • your name, 
  • current mailing address, 
  • any aliases or other names that you've used, 
  • date and place of birth, 
  • "an indication as to whether the applicant falls into any of the classes prohibited by Section 12021 or 12021.1 of this code or Section 8100 or 8103 of the Welfare and Institutions Code," 
  • a California driver's license or state-issued photo identification card, 
  • a clear thumbprint, to be taken when you apply for the license, 
  • a statement that you've read and agree to comply with all of the conditions of the handgun safety license, 
  • Date of application, 
  • Signature, 
  • proof that you are a California resident; this proof could include "a utility bill from within the last three months, a residential lease, or a property deed."

The deed to your home? What, no short-arm inspection?!? Besides, I always thought a California driver's license/state-issued photo identification card was proof of residency.

You would also have to:

"Perform a safe handling demonstration encompassing various types of handguns, the content, form, and manner of which shall be prescribed by the department. The demonstration shall be performed for an instructor certified by the department."

"Various types of handguns"? What if you only own one type of handgun, say, a single action revolver, and don't plan on buying another type of gun, say, a semi-auto?

If SB 52 became laws, you would also have to

"Complete and pass a written test, the content, form, and manner of which shall be prescribed by the department. The test shall be administered by an instructor certified by the department. The test shall cover all of the following:"

  • "The laws applicable to the carrying and handling of firearms, particularly handguns."
  • "The responsibilities of ownership of firearms, particularly handguns."
  • "Current law related to the private sale and transfer of firearms."
  • "Current law as it relates to permissible use of lethal force."
  • "What constitutes safe firearms storage practices."
  • "Risks associated with bringing a handgun into the home."
  • "Prevention strategies to reduce risks associated with bringing a handgun into the home."

It doesn't say where you would take the test, or what the requirements would be as far as the score is concerned; anti-self-defense and anti-Second Amendment law enforcement departments, like the LAPD, could make the testing so rigorous, that even expert shooters would have a hard time passing it.

All the bill says is: 

"At any point in the course, including testing, where an applicant fails to meet a requirement, the applicant shall be informed of that fact at the time of failure. If the applicant is denied a handgun safety license for failure to meet one or more requirements, the applicant shall be notified in writing, within 10 days of that determination, and the notification shall advise the applicant of the failure and basis for the denial."

In other words, you could hit nine out of ten bullseyes, not drop your gun, not shoot yourself in the foot, and still fail the test, because you can't memorize all 20,000 state and federal laws pertaining to the sale, transfer, carrying or handling of guns, or the laws pertaining to the use of lethal force.

Those same departments could make the place and timing of the shooting test so inconvenient that most people would just give up.
You would have to be a criminal lawyer, or a police officer, to pass these kinds of tests.

People with a valid concealed weapons permit would be exempt from the thumbprint requirement and the safety requirements. Yeah, right, try getting one of those from LAPD Chief Parks!

Active duty peace officers and reserve peace officers would, of course, be exempt from the thumbprint and safety requirements "if the department determines that the training completed by the reserve peace officers is, at a minimum, equivalent to the training course, written test, firearm proficiency, and safe handling demonstration required pursuant to the safety requirements of this section"

Senators Scott and Perata don't even trust reserve peace officers with a handgun.

People who are authorized by the department as handgun safety license instructors would also be exempt from the thumbprint and safety requirements. 

Your license would include the following:

  • Your name, 
  • current mailing address, 
  • date of birth, 
  • a number "unique to each licensee and that is the same as the licensee's California driver's license number, or if the licensee does not have a California driver's license, a number that is the same as the licensee's California state identification card number," 
  • expiration date of the license, 
  • your signature, 
  • the following words prominently displayed, at the top of the license, "California Handgun Safety License Not Valid For Any Other Purpose"

All of the above is just for openers; there isn't enough room here to cover the whole bill. It also has provisions relating to dealers and the probate laws. 

This law would also have the effect of ending state preemption of firearms laws, where the authority for making such laws is vested in the state, NOT in individual communities, so that all Californians live under the same standard.

SB 52 is the most draconian piece of legislation ever written in the state of California's history, and if passed into law, will surely be exported to many other states in the union. 

It would effectively end handgun ownership in the state simply because it would make it so difficult to obtain a license. 

The California Constitution, article 1, declaration of rights, section 1, says: 

"All people are by nature free and independent and have inalienable rights. Among these are enjoying and defending life and liberty, acquiring, possessing, and protecting property, and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy."

One has to wonder how Senators Scott and Perata expect the people of California to protect their property, "obtain safety" or "defend[ing] life and liberty" without the means to do so.

One also has to wonder if Senators Scott and Perata understand that the State Constitution doesn't trump the U.S. Constitution, or just what those "inalienable rights," also mentioned in the Declaration of Independence, include.

Also from Ed Apple, America, Dec. 7, 1941 to Oct. 1944, and Beyond, found in his archive at


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