To quickly and efficiently kill people at a gay club in Orlando early Sunday morning — and to do so at a scale greater than any other civilian armed with a gun in American history — Omar Mateen used an AR-15-style assault rifle, a civilian version of the weapon carried by American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan (and the same weapon of choice used to quickly and efficiently kill a room full of first-graders at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012).
While we know Mateen killed 49 people and injured many more before he was shot dead by police at 5 a.m. Sunday — and we know that his ex-wife described him as physically abusive and mentally ill — there's much more we don't yet know.
We do know, however, that there are currently five gun safety/gun control bills in the California Legislature — and at least one of them, were it to become law, would make it more difficult for a man like Mateen to acquire a weapon like an AR-15. And some of them are coming up for hearings on Tuesday.
[jump] On Monday, state Assembly members Phil Ting and David Chiu of San Francisco were joined by Asm. Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and Marin County Asm. Marc Levine in calling on the Senate Public Safety Committee to push through the various pieces of legislation. The bills have made it to the state Senate after escaping the Assembly on close partisan votes.
If passed, the Assembly bills would:
- Close a loophole making military-style assault rifle purchases legal in California;
- Restrict the sale of firearm pieces that can be reassembled into “ghost guns”;
- Limit purchases of long guns, which have a longer barrel and are designed to be braced against the shoulder when firing, to one a month, like handguns;
- Prevent people from legally buying a gun only to sell it someone barred from purchasing one;
- And expand eligibility of those who can seek a “gun violence restraining order.”
Mateen was known to the FBI prior to Sunday’s massacre. Born in the U.S. to Afghan immigrants, Mateen raised suspicions among his co-workers for possibly having ties to terrorists. The FBI was unable to verify any links and ceased the investigation in 2013.
Mateen was again investigated by the FBI the following year and again found to have no substantial ties with terror groups. A security guard, he was able to keep his Florida firearms license, and purchased a handgun and long gun just days before Sunday’s attack. An assault rifle and hand gun were used in the club shooting.
The investigation is ongoing, but some are saying it was an act of domestic terrorism because Mateen reportedly called police during the attack and pledged allegiance to ISIS. However, Mateen’s father blamed his son’s actions on homophobia. He apparently became enraged at the sight of two men kissing a few months before he carried out the massacre.
All five gun safety bills by the Bay Area lawmakers were introduced in January and February. Each one was vetted by Assembly committees before passing the full Assembly on June 1.
Ting authored the restraining order legislation, Assembly Bill 2607, which seeks to allow mental health professionals, employers, or co-workers to request a gun violence restraining order on someone. Ting says these people “are the most likely to see early warning signs if someone is becoming a danger to themselves or others.”
Levine, Ting, and Chiu co-authored Assembly Bill 1664, which seeks to redefine an assault-style weapon and require registration of weapons that would fall under the new definition. It would outlaw ammo magazines that are easily detachable.
Assembly Bill 1695 addresses instances of falsely reporting a firearm lost or stolen, presumably to illegally sell it. Such action would become a misdemeanor, and anyone convicted would be banned from owning a firearm for 10 years. Assembly Bill 1674 would limit applications for long gun purchases to one a month, and create fines and misdemeanor punishment for violators.
And Assembly Bill 1673 would expand the definition of firearm to make it harder to obtain parts and components that can be used to remake a gun.
The bills managed to make it through the Assembly despite no votes from both Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature. Here's one, Assemblyman Tom Lackey of Lancaster.
Or let's not and say we will after a mass shooting. That is, after all, the American way.