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Why does the State of California criminalize law-abiding gun owners, but give special gun privileges to the Harvey Weinstein Hollywood crowd?

Year after year, gun control proponents in Hollywood rail on about how 'gun laws need to be tightened' (or some such nonsense), that something else should be banned, and how more people should be separated from their fundamental, individual rights -- and lawfully-owned property. (Yes, Mr. Bourne-shoot-em-ups, we're looking at you.)

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But, as The Hollywood Reporter found, at "any moment, between 5,000 and 7,000" of just one studio supplier's guns "are in circulation" -- in other words, in the hands of who-knows-who -- without background checks or waiting periods.

Anyone who has spent any time reading California's voluminous Penal Code knows that, while "regular" people are, well, screwed, the glitterati have piles of exemptions to the State's frightening number of criminal laws.

The powerful movie and television lobby spends gobs of money to keep Hollywood filled with guns:

As president of the American Entertainment Armories Association, [ISS owner Gregg] Bilson is in close contact with the MPAA to carve out exemptions, such as a far shortened waiting period to get ahold of a handgun.

"[Armorers] can't wait 10 days — they need it that day or the very next day on set due to the speed of production..."

Even California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who championed the State's recent Proposition 63 gun control initiative, made sure to take care of his buddies in sunny Southern California.

His Prop 63 enacted a total, confiscatory ban on "large-capacity magazines" for law-abiding gun owners....but made sure to keep magazines used for "a motion picture, television, or video production" exempt.

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Indeed, there are an incredible number of super-special gun perks available only to the 'super-special' people in the movie and television business. Here are just some of them:

  • "The provisions listed in Section 16590 do not apply to any instrument or device....which is possessed or used during the course of a motion picture, television, or video production or entertainment event..." (Penal Code § 17720.)
  • In California, "A person commits criminal possession of a firearm when the person carries a firearm in a public place or on any public street while masked so as to hide the person’s identity." (Penal Code § 25300(a).) But that doesn't apply to Hollywood -- there's an exception for the "possession of an unloaded firearm or a firearm loaded with blank ammunition by an authorized participant in, or while rehearsing for, a motion picture, television, video production, entertainment event, entertainment activity, or lawfully organized and conducted activity when the participant lawfully uses the firearm as part of that production, event, or activity." 25300(b)(4).)
  • California generally bans people from carrying a concealed firearm. (Penal Code § 25400.) But "Section 25400 does not apply to, or affect....The possession of a firearm by an authorized participant in a motion picture, television, or video production, or an entertainment event, when the participant lawfully uses the firearm as part of that production or event, or while going directly to, or coming directly from, that production or event," or the "transportation of a firearm by an authorized employee or agent of a supplier of firearms when going directly to, or coming directly from, a motion picture, television, or video production, or an entertainment event, for the purpose of providing that firearm to an authorized participant to lawfully use as a part of that production or event."
  • "Section 26350" -- California's ban on "openly carrying an unloaded handgun" -- "does not apply to, or affect, the open carrying of an unloaded handgun by an authorized participant in, or an authorized employee or agent of a supplier of firearms for, a motion picture, television or video production..." (Penal Code § 26375.)
  • California generally bans the "unloaded open carry" of firearms that are not handguns, too. (Penal Code § 26400.) But there's a special exemption for "an authorized participant in, or an authorized employee or agent of a supplier of firearms for, a motion picture, television, or video production or entertainment event, when the participant lawfully uses that firearm as part of that production or event, as part of rehearsing or practicing for participation in that production or event, or while the participant or authorized employee or agent is at that production or event, or rehearsal or practice for that production or event." (Penal Code § 26405(r).) 
  • "Section 26500" -- the law requiring firearm transfers to be conducted through a licensed gun dealer -- "does not apply to the loan of an unloaded firearm or the loan of a firearm loaded with blank cartridges for use solely as a prop for a motion picture, television, or video production or entertainment or theatrical event." (Penal Code § 26580.)
  • Penal Code § 27505(a) holds that "No person, corporation, or firm shall sell, loan, or transfer a firearm to a minor, nor sell a handgun to an individual under 21 years of age." But then the State allows a parent or non-parent to loan a minor a handgun "for the purposes of....a motion picture, television, or video production, or entertainment or theatrical event, the nature of which involves the use of a firearm," for "the amount of time that is reasonably necessary to engage in....a motion picture, television, or video production, or entertainment or theatrical event, the nature of which involves the use of a firearm." (Penal Code § 27505(b)(5),(6).)
  • In the Golden State, "No person shall make an application to purchase more than one handgun within any 30-day period." (Penal Code § 27535(a).) (That's the 1-in-30 handgun ban.) But that law doesn't apply to "Any motion picture, television, or video production company or entertainment or theatrical company whose production by its nature involves the use of a firearm." (Penal Code § 27535(b)(6).)
  • Penal Code § 27540 requires, among other things, that the delivery of firearms be subject to a 10-day waiting period. But  not if "the firearm is unloaded" and the loan is "made by a dealer," "to a person who possesses a valid entertainment firearms permit," and the "firearm is loaned solely for use as a prop in a motion picture, television, video, theatrical, or other entertainment production or event." (Penal Code § 27745.)
  • Penal Code § 27835 exempts Hollywood from the importation and reporting of firearm transfers through the "California Firearms Application Reporting System (CFARS)" system -- see Penal Code § 27555 -- if the transfer is "to or from a person who has a valid entertainment firearms permit and the transfer involves the loan or return of a firearm used solely as a prop in a television, film, or theatrical production."

  • California requires (at Penal Code § 31615) that people who are loaned firearms have a valid Firearms Safety Certificate (or "FSC"). (An FSC is something people can get after paying a fee and taking a test about gun safety and current laws from a DOJ-licensed instructor.) But Penal Code § 31815 exempts some people who are loaned firearms if the firearm "loan is for use solely as a prop in a motion picture, television, video, theatrical, or other entertainment production or event." 
  • The DOJ's Handgun Roster is infamous for being a gun ban that keeps law-abiding people from acquiring safe, modern handguns for self-defense. But, if you're in Hollywood, don't worry about it! Those "unsafe" handguns are good to go, because Penal Code § 32110(h) says the Roster laws don't apply to the "sale, loan, or transfer of any semiautomatic pistol that is to be used solely as a prop during the course of a motion picture, television, or video production by an authorized participant therein in the course of making that production or event or by an authorized employee or agent of the entity producing that production or event."
  • Penal Code § 33300 allows the Department of Justice to "issue a permit for the manufacture, possession, importation, transportation, or sale of short-barreled rifles or short-barreled shotguns." But "Good cause, for the purposes of this section, shall be limited to....the manufacture, possession, importation, or use with blank cartridges, of a short-barreled rifle or short-barreled shotgun, solely as a prop for a motion picture, television, or video production or entertainment event." (Penal Code § 33300(b),(1).)

These special gun perks for Hollywood actors and actresses even came up during the live testimony during the Silvester v. Harris (10-day waiting period challenge) trial:

[Plaintiffs' attorney Donald Kilmer]: "So it's kind of an honor system?"

[Cal. DOJ Assistant Chief Steve Buford]: "I wouldn't call it an honor system, but because typically when actors or actresses are convicted, it's not -- it's usually public information. It's well known that they've been convicted."

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The esteemed actor Isaiah Washington, a strong supporter of Second and Fourteenth Amendment civil rights, told FPC that he sees the Hollywood hypocrisy on guns all too often. 

"It's clear that Hollywood knows exactly how important guns are to their audience," he said. "Just look at their armory bills for their cop shows and action movies, then you be the judge."

This is why FPC has consistently opposed giving special gun privileges to some people that are not available to all law-abiding people.

For example, one federal lawsuit brought by FPC, three other pro-civil rights groups, and many individual gun owners is already challenging the Hollywood exemption to California's ban on so-called "large-capacity magazines."

But, like everything else in Sacramento, this vicious cycle will continue until the Hollywood gun show loophole is closed for good: California will work to ban more people and guns, Hollywood will keep screaming about passing even more gun control, and then Hollywood will lobby for more explicit exemptions to the very same laws they want imposed on everyone else (not ironically, by the force of the government's guns).

Perhaps, if the mega-rich and entertainment-industrial-political complex were forced to live under the same rules as the rest of us -- and face the same criminal consequences -- they would have a different view about how 'awesome' gun control laws really are.

So we ask: Is it time to close the Hollywood gun show loophole?

Last updated 12/9/17 © 2017 Firearms Policy Coalition, Inc.

If you think it's time for Hollywood to follow the same gun laws as the rest of us, send the members of the California Legislature a message below.