SACRAMENTO — Gun registration had always seemed like the “line in the sand” — a proposal that would so offend the nation’s gun-rights advocates that they would bring out their full political muscle to stop it. Yet a California law mandating government record-keeping for all new long-gun purchases goes into effect on Jan. 1 and few people even seem to know about it.
This year, gun owners were relieved that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the toughest gun-control measures that came to his desk, including one that would have banned sales of almost all semi-automatic rifles. But back in 2011, after much debate, the governor signed the registration law, AB 809, with a 2014 start date. It’s far broader than any of the bills the governor dealt with in the last session.
Supporters claim it’s not exactly registration, in that the law calls for the state to retain background-check records of those who purchase guns and does not register specific guns to specific people. Opponents say that’s just semantics. The main element of registration is that the government can track legal gun owners. In this case the department will have a list of every owner and the specific guns each person buys. The state already tracks the purchases of handguns and “assault weapons.”
The new law will bolster a program that has generated much controversy. Earlier this month, legislators held hearings on the effectiveness of the Armed Prohibited Persons System, used to confiscate the firearms of California residents who are no longer eligible to own them. The California Department of Justice relies on the current ownership lists to identify gun owners and cross check those with lists of people who have been convicted of crimes or have been involuntarily committed for mental issues.