Killer escaped strict California gun laws
The smoke had barely cleared after a murderous rampage on Wednesday by a disgruntled maintenance worker at a San Jose streetcar yard when it became the center of the country’s heated debate over gun laws.
The deadliest mass shooting in the Bay Area prompted President Joe Biden to urge Congress to “help end this epidemic of gun violence in America.” Gov. Gavin Newsom attended the scene and recalled another mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in 2019. Supporters of stricter gun laws have argued that the latter of a nationwide series of mass shootings was proof of the need for more federal laws.
But the massacre of nine workers at the Valley Transportation Authority maintenance yard also unfolded in a state that has enacted the country’s toughest gun ownership restrictions, prompting rights activists guns to declare them not only ineffective but counterproductive.
âThe killer completely ignored California’s ‘no guns’ policy,â said Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America. “Did that stop the mass murderer?” No. Has he left law-abiding citizens helpless? Yes.”
As the investigation continues, new details Thursday showed several of the state’s gun laws failed to stop the bloodshed.
Law enforcement officials said the shooter, Samuel Cassidy, used three semi-automatic pistols, all legally obtained, but was fitted with 32 ammunition magazines containing 12 to 15 rounds, which is illegal in California. The state limits magazines for civilian use to 10 rounds. It was not clear how or where he bought them or if he bought them before California banned their sale in 2013 or their possession in 2016. There was a short window after a successful court challenge in August last when the biggest magazines were legal to buy, but the ban is now back in effect, pending a ruling from the federal appeals court.
Cassidy, who committed suicide when MPs arrived at the scene, also had several other firearms legally registered with him, including shotguns and rifles, but only used the pistols in the rampage said FBI Special Agent in Charge Craig Fair.
California requires universal background checks for all firearm transfers including gun shows and private sales, background checks to purchase ammunition, a 10 day waiting period after the purchase and banned military-type “assault weapons” often used in mass shootings.
The ban on high-capacity magazines aims to reduce the lethality of mass fire by limiting the number of shots that can be fired before reloading, thus giving potential victims a chance to flee or retaliate.
But authorities said the shooter on Wednesday used the three weapons to fire dozens of bullets, reloading freely as he mowed down his colleagues. Sheriff Laurie Smith noted that reloading a semi-automatic handgun was “very fast”.
California also has a recently improved “red flag” law that allows concerned family members, co-workers, employers and law enforcement officials to ask a judge to temporarily disarm a gun owner. who acts in a threatening manner.
There seemed to be a lot of red flags around Cassidy. His ex-wife said he was unstable and talked about killing his colleagues. An ex-girlfriend accused him in a 2009 trial of “rabid” alcohol-fueled mood swings, and a Department of Homeland Security note obtained by the Wall Street Journal indicated that U.S. customs officials l ‘had found with’ a black notebook filled with lots. of notes on how he hates the ATV. And in a press release Thursday afternoon, the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office said Cassidy “has been a very disgruntled employee of VTA for many years, which may have contributed to why he targeted VTA employees.
But Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said it didn’t appear that anyone attempted to invoke the Red Flag Act to disarm Cassidy.
Johnston added that the shooter also violated laws prohibiting the possession of firearms at transit facilities.
But supporters of expanding tough gun laws like California’s across the country say just because they don’t stop all gun killings doesn’t mean they don’t work. . They argue that federal laws would be even more effective, pointing to statistics showing that states like California and others with similar gun restrictions have lower gun death rates than those whose laws are more flexible.
“No gun law can stop all shootings, but California’s network of tough gun laws has helped make it one of the safest states in the country,” said volunteer Jessica Blitchok. in the California chapter of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. . âEven a state with strict gun laws like California, however, is not as secure as neighboring states with weak gun laws. That is why we need bipartisan federal action on gun safety. “