Earlier today, your Firearms Policy Coalition filed a supplemental letter of opposition to the dangerous anti-gun California Senate Bill 707 (authored by Sen. Lois Wolk, (D) Davis). FPC previously filed a full letter of opposition to the bill on June 23 that highlighted the many policy and constitutional defects in SB 707. Today’s letter addresses some new additions to the measure, many of which are flatly unconstitutional.
On July 2, SB 707 was amended to incorporate a new exemption to the Gun-Free School Zone Act (Cal. Penal Code Section 626.9) for reserve peace officers and additional exemptions to a California law that bans ammunition on school grounds (Cal. Penal Code Section 30310). SB 707’s July 2 amendments also remove an existing exemption to the ammunition ban for law-abiding carry licensees.
If passed, Senate Bill 707 would eliminate the carry license exemption to the Gun-Free School Zone Act of 1995. However, due to a previous amendment to the bill, retired peace officers would remain exempt from the stiff criminal penalties for violating the Act. Importantly, violations of the Act are “strict liability” crimes, meaning that anyone who violates the law is guilty of the crime, even if they do so unintentionally. In our June 23 letter, FPC argued that the proposed changes to the law violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.
In Silveira v. Lockyer, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a provision of the California Assault Weapons Control Act that exempted retired peace officers on Fourteenth Amendment Equal Protection grounds, holding that there was no rational basis to treat retired officers different from similarly situated members of the general public.
Former Attorney General (now Governor) Jerry Brown directly acknowledged the application of this ruling, saying in an official opinion: “Silveira teaches that it is the a [sic] peace officer’s role as a law enforcement agent that provides a rational basis for distinguishing between a peace officer and a private citizen….A retired officer is not authorized to engage in law enforcement activities.”
Thus, as the Ninth Circuit and Attorney General Brown held, SB 707’s exemption of retired peace officers is a blatant violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Moreover, history has shown that “gun-free zones” are incapable of preventing crimes and actually ensure that innocent people are left disarmed and helpless against attacks by dangerous criminals. This was never more evident than in the June 17 shooting in a state-mandated “gun-free” church in Charleston, South Carolina, which killed nine innocent people and in the tragic December 14, 2012 shooting at the “gun-free” Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.
As our June 23 letter notes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that most “active shooter events” ended before law enforcement officers arrived, and a significant number of active shooter events were ended by the potential victims themselves.
Passing Senate Bill 707 would strip law-abiding people of their ability to defend themselves during an “active shooter event” as they await the arrival of law enforcement. SB 707 is an outrageous gun control bill that must be forcefully opposed.