State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, who represents the 19th senatorial district — encompassing Santa Barbara County and parts of Ventura County — recently introduced a bill intended to ban certain types of assault shotguns, which, if passed, would expand an already existing assault weapons ban in California.
Prompted by the increased frequency of mass shootings around the nation, the bill could amend the ban on “smooth bore” shotguns with revolving cylinders to also include the usage and possession of “rifled bore” shotguns with revolving cylinders.
According to Jackson, legislation does not guarantee solutions for the issue of gun violence, but the purpose of the bill is to remain vigilant in updating California’s assault weapons ban, making the usage of certain highly dangerous weapons illegal.
“What I’m trying to do is stay a step ahead of these new technologies,” Jackson said. “The definition of an assault weapon is that the danger of the gun or firearm far outweighs any recreational use it may have. That is the criteria of this bill. Clearly the dangers, velocity, pinpoint accuracy [and] the speed with which it can be shot outweighs any recreational use that these weapons have.”
These shotguns contain a rifle barrel and a revolving cylinder, which contains two shells. Users must load and unload the gun, but if it is made to shoot six rounds without having to reload, the gun becomes more deadly. Manufacturers are now making guns using imprinting with a rifle barrel, in which the inside of the barrel is crafted to give the shot a greater velocity. This weapon is relatively new and can fire a large number of cartridges in a short
According to Jackson, who lived through and remembers the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., the country has seen increased gun violence throughout recent years. Jackson said the ban will help prevent people from having access to these specific firearms, lessening the possibility of future shootings.
“For me, I believe that gun violence is an epidemic in this country and we’ve got to do something to deal with the carnage that we’ve been seeing at Columbine, Aurora and particularly in Newtown,” Jackson said. “In far too many cases, access to firearms makes law-abiding citizens into criminals. Think about that. The young man who killed 20 children and six teachers all in Connecticut — he had no criminal record.”
Jackson said while the Second Amendment protects citizens’ rights to keep and bear arms, such a right is maintained for purposes of protection, hunting and recreation. However, the line drawn between these purposes and that of other uses becomes blurred due to the impact of popular American culture on common ideals and values, according to Jackson.
“I believe that the problem has three parts to it,” Jackson said. “One part is gun violence, another is mental health issues in many of these shooters, which we found out about too late, and the third component is that we live in a very violent society. We celebrate violence in this country, in our culture, and we really need to re-evaluate that.”
To tackle the issue of increased risks caused by such factors, Jackson said it is necessary to pass legislation that actively limits the use of firearms.
“I think the first step is to try to create measures of reducing access to firearms from people who should clearly not have them,” Jackson said. “We have to make sure to start moving forward with this.”
Michael Furlong, a professor in the Gevirtz Graduate School of Education Counseling, Clinical and School Psychology Department, said the bill is necessary in order to bring a measure of common sense to the restrictions on gun ownership.
“I avoid the use of the term ‘gun control’ because of all the irrational political history it has. The country seems to have firmly established the principal of Second Amendment rights, so there is no way that ‘gun control,’ as in substantially reducing the number of guns in the USA, will happen,” Furlong said. “I prefer the term ‘common sense gun regulations’ because this does not convey banning firearms but implementing regulations and procedures that make access to guns more reasonable and allow the sale of guns that have a clear sporting function.”
Furlong said when discussing the issue of gun accessibility and possession, the possibility that the weapons could be used for self-harm is commonly overlooked.
“Suicide is a problem and the debate over having guns for self-defense belies the reality that they are more likely to be used for self-annihilation,” Furlong said. “This issue seems to get completely lost in the broader discussion about guns.”
According to Jeremy Wenger, a fourth-year economics major, the bill is not necessary and goes against Second Amendment rights.
“The senator is going after a gun that is way less dangerous than other guns available,” Wenger said. “This thing can only shoot five rounds before reload, hardly a large number in comparison to other legal shotguns. This bill is essentially a publicity stunt to say she is banning ‘assault shotguns’ when in fact she is not. Time and effort would be better spent on the mental health issues that lead to gun violence than on the circuit judge.”
Jackson’s bill will be officially introduced this week as part of a package of bills that aims to reduce access to guns — including one calling for more extensive records of gun ownership and another requiring more safety training upon purchase. Jackson hopes the bill will eventually lead to reform on a national level.
“I don’t think that arming every citizen in this country is going to do anything to end gun violence.” Jackson said. “When we see that guns are introduced to a situation, the level of danger and violence and death increases geometrically. This is not the answer to the problem. The answer to the problem is to treat people’s mental health and to reduce our consistent use of violence to resolve disputes.”