Peer Review Comment

Monte Grim
State Government
State policy paper: Rough Draft
Gun Control
Gun control has been a divisive public policy issue in the United States for decades. At either the state or federal level the control of guns in this country has both been complex and contentious. Any gun control policy has been in direct contestation with the second amendment of the constitution. Federalism allows states to set their own gun control policy separate of the federal government. Gun control is an excellent example of states exercising rights under a federalist system. States have varying levels of gun control policy and many times states have clashed with the federal government over the legality of limiting a citizens second amendment rights.After the 2016 election the United States saw a republican controlled white house, senate, and house of representatives, and 33 out of 50 state governorships, who were all committed to resisting any gun control measures at the federal level. (Haughey, John, 2018) Decades of taking a “no hands on” approach with gun control policy has led to many states exercising their rights under the federalist system, passing their own gun control policies separate the federal government.
While 1,600 firearm related bills were filed in state legislatures in 2017, many fo them seeking to weaken existing gun control, 14 out of 18 rejected bills to allow guns in schools, 14 out of 16 rejected bills to allow firearms on college campuses, and 20 out of 22 rejected bills that would have eliminated requirements for permits in order to purchase a firearm. (Haughey, John, 2018) While the federal government and many state governments are controlled by a political majority who are opponents of gun control policy, many states are still acting independently of the federal government to enact their own public policy. This has largely been in the form of either striking down laws seeking to weaken regulations on firearms or passing new gun control policy.
Two states that illustrate the complexity under a federalist system in respect to gun control policy are California and Texas. I chose these two states because they are two of the largest states by size and population and they have polar opposite policies on gun control. Using these two states as examples I will discuss the contrasts that exist in the federalist system. I will argue that it is important for states to have the ability to govern separate from the federal government, but it is more important for the federal government to protect the public from gun violence. The danger of gun violence to the public justifies the federal government passing federal law that would impose uniform gun control on all states.
Two of the most important supreme court cases pertaining to the ability for federal and state governments to pass any laws regulating the second amendment happened within the last twenty years, Heller v. District of Columbia (2008) and Mcdonald v. Chicago (2010). The issue in Heller v. DC came down to a law requiring special permits to be able to conceal and carry firearms within the city. Dick Heller, a police officer, applied for one and was denied, so he sued the city. The supreme court in a 5-4 decision decided that the requirement to keep guns in a home disassembled or non functional with a trigger lock mechanism unconstitutional. Furthermore the court decided that banning handguns, a class of firearms almost entirely used for protection, from the home, the area needing protection, violated the second amendment. (Oyez. Accessed February 28, 2019)
Mcdonald v. Chicago was a supreme court case that followed the Heller v. DC decision. This case further restricted the ability to place laws restricting second amendment rights, specifically in regard to state laws. Several plaintiffs filed suit against the city of Chicago following Heller v. DC claiming that the second amendment should also apply to the states under the fourteenth amendment or due process. In a 5-4 decision the supreme court ruled that the fourteenth amendment makes the second amendment applicable to the states through due process. (Oyez. Accessed February 28, 2019)
California is a state that has a history of strict gun control and reputation to be the most progressive when it comes to passing gun legislation. California has long become the model for many states seeking to pass their own gun regulations, many have called their own legislation the “California model”. (Urbina, Ian. “A Look at California Gun Laws, Among the Toughest in the Nation.” The New York Times. November 08, 2018) The Giffords law center ranks the state of California as the best state for gun control policy, giving it an A grade.(Giffords Law Center) California requires state permits to purchase firearms, conceal and carry a firearm and to sell firearms along with mandatory ten day waiting periods.
California passed the Roberti-Roos assault weapons ban law in 1989 that made it illegal to possess, import, or purchase assault weapons. The Roberti-Roos assault weapons ban was a case where the federal government allowed a state to pass controversial legislation that challenges a constitutional right, in order to gauge the effectiveness to pass on a national level. Five years later under President Bill Clinton, congress passed the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act (1994). This act created a ten year ban on assault weapons, following California’s model, to test the effectiveness of the law at the federal level. While the ban was allowed to expire and was not renewed, it was a landmark in gun control policy in this nation.
Since Heller v. DC and Mcdonald v. Chicago California has had many legal cases involving gun control policies reach the ninth circuit of appeals, with many of the cases going in the favor of California and advocates of gun control. In 2014, the U.S district court of the eastern district of California ruled the ten day waiting period to purchase a firearm was unconstitutional because it violates the second amendment. On December 14, 2016 this ruling was overturned by the ninth circuit court of appeals. In November 2016, proposition 63 passed a referendum outlawing the possession of magazine that can hold more than ten rounds, would require background checks to buy ammo, and mandates filing a report for a lost firearm. On June 30, 2017 a federal judge blocked the enforcement of proposition 63’s ban on large capacity magazines pending outcome of litigation. Senate bill 880 and assembly bill 1135 in June 2016 expanded the assault weapon ban to include all semi-automatic rifles and shotguns. Peruta v. San Diego (2016) was a court case that reached the ninth circuit court also which dealt with California’s requirements to obtain a concealed weapons permit. The ninth circuit court ruled in favor of California’s law, stating “there is no Second Amendment right for members of the general public to carry concealed firearms in public”.
· Haughey, John. “8 Biggest State Policy Issues | Connectivity.” CQ, CQ, 16 Aug. 2018,
· “District of Columbia v. Heller.” Oyez. Accessed February 28, 2019.
· “McDonald v. Chicago.” Oyez. Accessed February 28, 2019.
· Urbina, Ian. “A Look at California Gun Laws, Among the Toughest in the Nation.” The New York Times. November 08, 2018. Accessed February 28, 2019.
· Giffords Law Center, Gun Law Scorecard, February 28, 2019.
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