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Stricter gun laws in 2019 — including California lifetime firearms ownership ban on some domestic abusers

Key Points
  • More than a dozen new gun laws passed by California lawmakers go into effect in 2019, including a lifetime gun ownership ban for those involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility.
  • Another California law requires a lifetime ban on gun ownership for some domestic violence offenders.
  • In addition, there are new laws in California and several other states that raise the minimum age from 18 years old to age 21 for the purchase of long guns.
  • Ohio's state legislature, meantime, could vote as early as Thursday to override a gun bill rejected by outgoing Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
An attendee holds a Fabbrica d'Armi Pietro Beretta SpA pistol at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas, May 5, 2018.
Daniel Acker | Bloomberg | Getty Images

More than a dozen new gun laws passed by California lawmakers go into effect in 2019, including a lifetime gun ownership ban for those involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility. There's also a bill in California to add new protections for survivors of domestic violence.

In addition, California and at least five other states (Washington, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois and Vermont) and the District of Columbia passed laws in 2018 that raised the minimum age from 18 years old to age 21 for the purchase of long guns, and many of those laws take effect Jan. 1, 2019. Many of those laws were acted on after the Feb. 14 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people.

At least a dozen other states already restrict ownership or possession of long guns to individuals under age 21. Federal law currently prohibits the sale of handguns from a licensed retailer to people under age 21.

Several national retailers also have moved to curb sales of certain guns to customers younger than 21, including Dick's Sporting Goods, Kroger-owned Fred Meyer superstores as well as Walmart. Some of those under-21 policies also restrict ammunition sales and have led to lawsuits.

California

In California, Assembly Bill 1968 mandates a lifetime ban on the ownership of firearms for individuals if they were involuntarily admitted to a mental health facility more than once within a one-year period because they were deemed a danger to themselves or others. The individual could appeal the ban every five years. The bill becomes operative at the end of 2019.

At the same time, California Assembly Bill 3129 puts a lifetime ban on gun ownership or possession for individuals convicted on or after Jan. 1, 2019, of a misdemeanor domestic violence offense or for battery on a spouse, cohabitant or person the defendant currently or previously dated or engaged in a relationship. Current state law requires a 10-year ban on possessing a firearm or ammunition for those convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

"A big trend you're seeing now isn't just getting laws on the books, but ensuring that there is funding attached to actually be able to implement the law," said Kyleanne Hunter, vice president of programs at the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. She said a case in point is California's laws involving gun violence restraining orders.

Hunter said she expects more gun legislation to be proposed at a federal level in 2019 since there will be "a pro-gun violence prevention Congress. You'll see early on an introduction of a background check bill that will close the loopholes and hopefully expand the definition of prohibited purchases to include" abusers who victimize nonspouse partners.

Gun taxes

California already is known for having one of the toughest sets of gun laws in the nation. On the first day to introduce bills for the 2019-20 legislative session, Assembly Bill 18 was proposed to place a new excise tax on gun sales and use the money to fund violence intervention and prevention activities.

Gov.-elect Gavin Newsom, a Democrat who takes office Jan. 7, vowed last month to "raise the bar" on California's gun control laws after the Nov. 7 mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks in which 12 people were killed and the suspect also died. Newsom also has said he will take a second look at some bills that current Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed.

In September, Brown vetoed Assembly Bill 2888, a bill that would have expanded the list of people who can get a gun violence restraining order to co-workers and employers as well as teachers.

"We have no doubt that the anti-gun governor, Gavin Newsom, will aggressively pursue legislation to further infringe upon the Second Amendment rights of law abiding citizens in the state of California," said Larry Keane, senior vice president and general counsel of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a pro-gun lobbying group based in Connecticut.

Keane contends that anti-gun legislation from California have not reduced crime in the Golden State. The Brady group counters that the state's gun laws save lives.

Oregon and Washington

In Oregon, the state's so-called intimate partner loophole or boyfriend loophole bill — House Bill 4145 — goes into effect Jan. 1 and bans the ownership or purchase of guns by domestic abuse offenders or people under restraining orders. At least 29 other states have similar laws that put curbs on the ownership or purchase of guns for convicted domestic abusers or stalkers.

The Oregon law was signed by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown less than a month after the Feb. 14 shooting in Florida. The bill was proposed at the request of the governor.

Meantime, in Washington state voters passed ballot Initiative 1639 in November, which sets into motion several new gun regulations, including raising the legal age to buy semi-automatic assault rifles from 18 years old to 21. It also requires the purchaser to provide proof they completed firearms safety training.

In addition, at least a dozen other states already restrict ownership or possession of long guns to individuals under age 21. Federal law already prohibits the sale or transfer of pistols by a federal firearms licensee to people under age 21; the law doesn't apply to shotguns or rifles.

Also, other changes under the voter-approved initiative include enhanced background checks, waiting periods and increases secure gun storage for all guns to prevent them from getting in the hands of children. Washington's law raising the age to buy a semi-automatic assault rifle takes effect Jan. 1, 2019, while the other new rules in Initiative 1639 take effect July 1, 2019.

Illinois and Florida

In Illinois, a new law goes into effect next year that allows authorities to seize guns from someone determined to be a danger to themselves or others. House Bill 2354 was signed in July by Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican who was ousted last month by Democrat J.B. Pritzker. At least seven other states passed similar so-called red flag laws this year.

Also, another gun law passed by Illinois this year extends the 72-hour cooling-off period for the purchase of all firearms. Similarly, Florida state lawmakers responded to mounting pressure to act on gun control after the Parkland massacre by passing a three-day waiting period on most firearms purchases and outlawing bump stocks, which can make semi-automatic rifles fire faster.

New Jersey and Ohio

New Jersey's new law banning gun magazines holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition went into effect Dec. 10. A judge upheld the law after a challenge from affiliates of the National Rifle Association. At least seven other states have passed similar laws along with several cities and the District of Columbia.

Finally, the Ohio state legislature could vote as early as Thursday when it reconvenes to consider overriding a gun bill rejected this month by Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The bill would expand gun-owner rights and was blasted as "baffling and unconscionable" by the outgoing governor.

House Bill 228 would expand the ability of individuals or groups impacted by local firearm regulation to sue for damages. Among other provisions, it would shift the burden of proof on self-defense cases involving firearms to prosecutors from defendants.