Both houses of the California Legislature spent several hours late one day toward the end of August working on pending bills, and a strong subcurrent was the protection and enhancement of personal and civil rights.
The beneficiaries of those bills included, in no particular order, immigrants, prison inmates, women, abortion clinics, gays and lesbians, beer drinkers, bicyclists, Internet users, pregnant women, drug transporters, public school students, the mentally ill and, interestingly enough, mountain lions.
One lengthy Assembly discourse marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington to demand an end to racial segregation and the denial of voting rights to African-Americans.
Were one to look at the broader array of legislation, the list would be even longer. One recently enacted bill, for instance, creates the legal right of transgender public school students to be treated according to their self-designated status, regardless of their biological gender.
So far, so good. In America, a basic governmental duty is to protect constituents’ civil and human rights, and while we may debate the specifics, the bedrock mission remains vital.
However, there is a significant exception to the Legislature’s zealous protection of rights, one group of law-abiding Californians whose rights are being assaulted, even though they are specifically mentioned in the nation’s Constitution – the millions of Californians who own and use firearms for hunting and target-shooting.
The same Democratic legislators who passionately argue for the protection of other rights, including those of felons, are pushing at least two dozen bills that would harass law-abiding gun owners.
They argue that imposing more restrictions on guns, gun owners and ammunition would somehow improve public safety, but offer no empirical evidence to back that contention. One wonders whether the Democrats who carry anti-gun bills really believe they’ll have some beneficial effect on society, or are just following what has become the knee-jerk party line.
Whatever their motives, the Democrats seem to believe that gun owners can be political targets because they tend to live in suburban and rural areas that don’t support their party, and that they can make legal gun ownership so expensive and full of petty hassles that shooters will just give up on their hobbies.
If anything, the opposite will occur. California’s already heavy-handed gun regulations, until recently the tightest in the nation, have had the effect of persuading shooters and hunters to buy even more guns and ammo before they become even more expensive and less available. That would be the likely result should a new batch of rules be enacted.
It’s all quite nonsensical – and undercuts the reverence for human and civil rights that the Legislature professes to hold.
Dan Walters is a columnist for the Sacramento Bee. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.