POLITICS
09/18/2013 10:56 am ET Updated Sep 18, 2013

Oakland Pushes Back Against State Gun Laws

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California's violence-plagued Oakland is determined to take a more active role in curbing crime, but local officials will first need the governor's approval to exempt the city from a state law that bans the regulation of gun ownership.

Introduced by Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda) AB 180 would exempt Oakland from a California law barring city governments from regulating the registering and licensing of firearms. The bill has passed in the Legislature and is now sitting on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk awaiting a final decision, according to a press release.

A total of 3,026 shootings this year alone, including the fatal shooting of 8-year-old Alaysha Carradine at a sleepover in July, ranks Oakland as having the most gun crimes in the state. Local officials hope such extreme circumstances will make a case for the city's exemption from the state law.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the state does not actually require gun registration, but rather a record of sale from the dealer, who provides it to the state Department of Justice.

"AB 180 could curb this escalating problem by allowing Oakland to enact more targeted and more effective ordinances than are currently in place," Bonta said in a press release Monday.

The more targeted approach would include regularly cross-checking the registry with a state database listing people banned from owning firearms, and spotting people who frequently buy guns and may be selling them on the black market, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

"We've seen that when we have information and data that we can see trends emerge," Councilwoman Libby Schaaf told the Chronicle. "Our number one focus would be to try and stop the illegal gun trafficking. By having information linked to registration and licensing, we would be able to identify straw purchasers," she said. Schaaf acknowledged to the Chronicle that such regulations would not be as effective on criminals who already possess illegal firearms.

Oakland would be the first California city awarded a waiver from the current state regulation, and the National Rifle Association has urged citizens to fight the bill's passage.

"They're going off the rails," California civil rights and firearm regulation attorney Chuck Michel said of the bill's supporters in an interview with NRA News. "This entire state is crazy." The bill, Michel contended, would allow Oakland to completely ban all firearms and set a precedent for all California cities to be exempt from the state law.

Other groups opposing the bill argued that it will only make Oakland's citizens more unsafe.

"The bill does nothing useful and is just going to make it more difficult for poor people in Oakland to defend themselves and their families," Brandon Combs, president of the California Association of Federal Firearms Licensees, told the Los Angeles Times.

In contrast, Chicago, another city with high rates of gun violence, lost its local authority to regulate gun licensing after a state law similar to California's was enacted. Chicago's gun registry database had helped the police better understand the city's movement of weapons as they enacted new policing strategies, The New York Times reported. Before the law was passed, Chicago’s homicide rate had decreased by 22 percent.

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