PBS NewsHour Frets Second Amendment Prevents More Gun Control in California

On Monday evening, PBS NewsHour co-anchors Geoff Bennett and Amna Nawaz delivered taxpayer-funded anti-gun activism as the two hosted back-to-back segments that pushed for more gun restrictions.

After Nawaz prodded Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) to call for more gun control in response to the Monterey Park mass shooting in California, Bennett let UCLA Professor Adam Winkler argue that California’s gun laws are still not strict enough compared to other countries.

Even though it had not been determined how the gunman acquired his guns, Congresswoman Chu speculated about the ways background checks might be circumvented.

After she incorrectly claimed that a gunman might “evade” background checks by purchasing from a “gun store” instead of a “typical store” — whatever that means – Nawaz did not correct her guest’s misinformation as she followed up by asking about President Joe Biden’s support for more gun control: “You spoke with President Biden today. You tweeted earlier. Did he make any pledges to you about additional executive action that he can take when it comes to gun safety?” 

Nawaz then touted President Biden’s anti-gun activism as she followed up:

We should note, President Biden has long urged Congress to take additional action when it comes to gun safety and legislation around that. It was last year that it took nearly 30 years and multiple mass shootings for there to be limited bipartisan gun safety reform that made it through a Democratic-led Congress. Is there any hope for additional reform in this divided Congress?

Opening the next segment, Bennett admitted that California’s gun laws are the strictest in the country, but suggested more restrictions are still needed:

California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Studies show that those laws are effective, but they are apparently not enough in a country where gun ownership is considered a constitutional right.

Considered a right? On PBS, they think the Second Amendment isn’t clear enough on gun rights. After claiming that California’s gun control efforts have been successful, Professor Winkler cautioned:

…we should recognize that California has restrictive gun laws only compared to other American states. Compared to the Western industrialized world, for instance, California has some of the loosest and most permissive laws in the world. So California’s gun laws do try to reduce gun violence, but it’s still easy for pretty much anyone to get their hands on a firearm in California.

Using the preferred liberal language of “gun safety,” Bennett followed up:

What are some of the biggest concerns about those gun safety laws, especially when you consider that the Supreme Court has made it harder to defend gun safety laws against a Second Amendment challenge?

Winkler concluded by lamenting that the American public “unfortunately” is not supportive enough of federal gun laws to impose restrictions on the entire country:

California has tried mightily in recent years to reduce gun violence, and with some success. However, it’s very difficult for a gun law to be effective when a resident of California can go to Arizona or Nevada and purchase the exact weapon that is outlawed in the state of California. Guns easily cross state lines, and really the only way to have effective American gun safety reform is to do it at the federal level. Unfortunately, the American politics don’t seem to be particularly ripe for such reform.

This episode of the PBS NewsHour was funded by Consumer Cellular as well as viewers like you.

Partial transcript follows:

PBS NewsHour

January 23, 2023

7:11 p.m. Eastern

CONGRESSWOMAN JUDY CHU (D-CA): And I want to know whether he went through the background checks or whether he evaded it like so many other Americans who try to evade it by not going through a typical store but instead doing an online purchase or a gun store purchase or a private purchase.

AMNA NAWAZ: Those are all questions you still don’t have answers to?

CONGRESSWOMAN CHU: We don’t.

NAWAZ: You spoke with President Biden today. You tweeted earlier. Did he make any pledges to you about additional executive action that he can take when it comes to gun safety?

(CONGRESSWOMAN CHU)

We should note, President Biden has long urged Congress to take additional action when it comes to gun safety and legislation around that. It was last year that it took nearly 30 years and multiple mass shootings for there to be limited bipartisan gun safety reform that made it through a Democratic-led Congress. Is there any hope for additional reform in this divided Congress?

CONGRESSWOMAN CHU: We have to fight for it. We have to take a step forward wherever we can. It was a limited bill, but I did take pride in the fact that it actually passed after 30 years of nothing. I still think that we should put at the top of the list true universal background checks because those have proven to save lives by keeping guns out of the hands of violent and criminal people. And the reason I say “true” is because so many people use those loopholes by buying online or through a private purchase. So we have to close that gap.

NAWAZ: Is there hope for that in a Republican-led House?

CONGRESSWOMAN CHU: Well, we have to see what we can do. Americans have to raise their voices and show how important this is to them, and especially those living in the districts of members of Congress who are resistant to this because those Congress members could be the next ones with a mass shooting in their district. Their constituents could be the victims — their neighbors — their family members — their loved ones — so until we stop this proliferation of gun violence, none of us will be safe.

(…)

7:17 p.m. Eastern

GEOFF BENNETT: California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country. Studies show that those laws are effective, but they are apparently not enough in a country where gun ownership is considered a constitutional right.

PROFESSOR ADAM WINKLER, UCLA SCHOOL OF LAW: Well, it is true that California’s gun laws do work. We have the lowest firearms mortality rate in the nation in California — far lower than the national average. However, we should recognize that California has restrictive gun laws only compared to other American states. Compared to the Western industrialized world, for instance, California has some of the loosest and most permissive laws in the world. So California’s gun laws do try to reduce gun violence, but it’s still easy for pretty much anyone to get their hands on a firearm in California.

BENNETT: What are some of the biggest concerns about those gun safety laws, especially when you consider that the Supreme Court has made it harder to defend gun safety laws against a Second Amendment challenge?

BENNETT: Well, I think that one of the things that’s most concerning for California lawmakers is whether the gun laws they pass either today or the ones that passed in the past are actually going to be constitutionally permissible. The Supreme Court this past June strengthened Second Amendment protections — has made it much harder for states to defend gun laws. And many of California’s most aggressive efforts to regulate guns and provide for safety reform are likely to be called into question in the courts in the coming years.

But when we have a society that has decided to become heavily armed like American society — even in California — it provides anyone of any age with the means to do incredible violence to other people.

BENNETT: Let’s talk more about that because authorities right now are working to learn more about the shooter’s motive as they piece together a full picture of what transpired, but I know you believe that when it comes to mass shootings, the means matter sometimes more than the motive. Tell me more about that.

WINKLER: Well, it’s always going to be difficult to control people’s motives. We don’t know what the motive was in this particular case, though I’ve seen rumors that this was a domestic dispute involved. We can’t stop people from getting angry. What we can do is make it a little bit harder for that person to get their hands on a firearm while they’re in that passionate state — universal background checks, waiting periods are the kinds of things that can help.

But we need not just to think about regulating guns but also efforts to enforce the current gun laws that we have by having community intervention programs to identify those who are most likely to commit violence and try to intercede with those people and stop them from doing so. There’s a lot we can do, but we can’t stop everybody from having access to weapons and we can’t stop every bad motive from resulting in gun violence.

BENNETT: Is this best accomplished at a state level at this point, do you think?

WINKLER: California has tried mightily in recent years to reduce gun violence, and with some success. However, it’s very difficult for a gun law to be effective when a resident of California can go to Arizona or Nevada and purchase the exact weapon that is outlawed in the state of California. Guns easily cross state lines, and really the only way to have effective American gun safety reform is to do it at the federal level. Unfortunately, the American politics don’t seem to be particularly ripe for such reform.

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