With school shootings making headline news across the country, a rising movement across the United States is to arm teachers to protect students is making headlines. Not surprisingly, there are strong emotions both for and against allowing teachers to carry firearms in schools.

California law prohibits the possession of concealed firearms on campus with a few exceptions. In 2015, the California Legislature passed SB 707, which recognized exceptions, such as persons who have the written permission of specified school district officials or for certain retired reserve peace officers who are authorized to carry a concealed or loaded firearm.

For years, several districts in California have allowed teachers and staff to carry concealed firearms on their school’s grounds. Since 2010, Folsom Cordova Unified School District in Sacramento County has allowed staff to carry weapons on school campuses, however they must be stored in a specified location. In response to the San Bernardino shooting in 2016, Kingsburg Joint Union High School District in Fresno County voted to allow no more than five people to carry concealed weapons on  their person to address “immediate” threats. Anderson Union High School District in Shasta County also allows employees to carry weapons at schools.

Campaigns and citizens across America are protesting policies such as these, with just as many supporting it. The National Educators Association President, Lily Eskelsen García, quickly announced her opposition to arming teachers. She stated in her official comment, “We need solutions that will keep guns out of the hands of those who want to use them to massacre innocent children and educators. Arming teachers does nothing to prevent that.” The California Teachers Association and many of its members expressed their opposition to guns on schools online as well:

However, supporters of arming teachers cite an Illinois teacher who shot an armed student threatening the school. President Donald Trump suggested teachers should have guns in the classroom since the teacher could “[shoot] and that would be the end of it.”

California is just one of over two dozen states that allow teachers and staff to bring firearms on campus with the topic becoming more widespread across the nation, likely more school districts will have to decide if they should allow firearms on their campuses as well.

There have been thirteen firearm attacks on school campuses resulting in injury or death across the United States since the beginning of 2018,and five more instances of gunfire on campuses – two of which occurred in California. All of this, combined with the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida and the and the ongoing work of the survivors of that shooting have catapulted gun safety towards the top of 2018’s major issues. In response, Senator Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge) has a bill to raise the minimum age to purchase a rifle to 21.

California law already restricts handgun sales to only persons over 21 and to a maximum purchase of one handgun every 30 days. However, for purchasing rifles, 18 is the minimum age. Portantino’s bill would have rifle restrictions mirror the restrictions on handgun purchases, raising the minimum age to 21 and limiting purchases of rifles to once every 30 days.

It is not uncommon for California legislators to propose legislation to limit the sale of firearms. In 2016, the California Legislature passed a bill banning the sale of assault rifles and required registration by owners. A bill, similar to Sen. Portantino’s, limiting rifle purchases to every 30 days was defeated last year in the Assembly after the National Rifle Association opposed the bill.

This bill is not without its opponents. Sam Paredes, Director of Gun Owners of California, argues that the proposed restrictions are excessive. He notes that 18 year-olds are allowed to serve in the military, vote, and drive cars. Other proponents of the freedom to purchase weapons are not hesitating to condemn the revised legislation as well.

As mentioned earlier, 2018 has had two school shooting incidents in California. On January 10, at California State University, San Bernardino, bullets were fired through a window, with no suspects or motive identified. Later, on February 1st, a semi-automatic handgun brought to school in Los Angeles by a 12-year-old student accidentally went off. Four students were injured.

Sen. Portantino’s legislation joins dozens of other bills on guns working their way through the California Legislature this year. It will be interesting to see where they all land.




Congress has the power to regulate how guns are sold at gun shows, or to prohibit gun show sales entirely.  But it has not done so. This leaves a patchwork of different state rules across the nation. And while states may create and enforce their own rules within their geographical areas, policy choices of neighboring states inevitably bleed across the borders. A recent UC Berkeley study showed that gun violence increased 70 percent in parts of California after Nevada gun shows.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) partially funded the gun show study. However, for two decades, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has not funded gun violence research because the CDC is prohibited by Congress from using appropriated money“to advocate or promote gun control.” Since 2012, the NIH has been subject to a similar restriction, but has interpreted it to permit funding research such as the Nevada gun show study. According to a piece in JAMA:

Why the 2 federal agencies have interpreted the same rider so differently is not clear. Critics say the CDC has overreacted to the amendment’s vague language. But other observers note that the size of the NIH budget gives it less reason to be concerned about retaliation by pro-gun members of Congress.”

To read the entire article, see: Tale of 2 Agencies: CDC Avoids Gun Violence Research But NIH Funds It

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Congress’s Commerce Power





California is one of seven states that bans assault weapons, which are semi-automatic, military-style weapons with features that make them easy to conceal, and easy to fire multiple rounds of ammunition continuously. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is in the process of filing a series of lawsuits challenging the most recent assault weapon restrictions passed by the California Legislature in 2016 (AB 1135 and SB 880).  A petition for review currently pending in the U.S. Supreme Court is of high interest to Californians because it asks the Court to accept the same arguments made by the NRA in its constitutional challenge to California’s new assault weapons restrictions.

The petition currently pending at the U.S. Supreme Court requests that it accept review of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals’ en banc decision upholding Maryland’s assault weapons ban – Kolbe v. Hogan, 849 F.3d 114 (4th Cir. 2017) (en banc). Gun owners and dealers argue that because certain types of prohibited assault weapons, specifically the AR-15 and AK-47, are “popular” choices for self-defense, the Constitution’s Second Amendment prohibits states from banning them.


AR-15 Assault rifle


AK-47 Assault Rifle






The challengers ask the Court to interpret the Constitution to mean that “[t]he individual – and not the government – retains the right to choose from among common arms those that they believe will best protect their person, family, and home.”  Pet. For Writ of Cert. at 3.  This interpretation of the Constitution, if adopted by the Court, could dramatically restrict the power of California’s citizens, and the citizens of other states, through their legislatures, to limit the availability of weapons they determine to pose particular dangers of misuse.  These weapons include guns or accessories with rapid-fire or other assault features that have been commonly used in mass shootings, including the most recent Las Vegas tragedy.

The Court has discretion to accept or refuse review of lower court decisions. Since its two  decisions in 2008 and 2010 interpreting the Second Amendment to protect an individual’s right to possess a gun in the home for self-defense, the Court has not agreed to review challenges to gun restrictions. Only Justices Thomas and Gorsuch seem inclined to review and strike down gun restrictions in the short term, complaining in a dissent last term about the Court’s “treatment of the Second Amendment as a disfavored right.” Peruta v. California, 582 U.S. (2017).

The challengers in the pending case, Kolbe v. Hogan, filed their petition for review on July 21, 2017. West Virginia, joined by twenty other states, filed an amicus brief supporting the request for review. The State’s response is due on October 10, 2017. Once all the briefs are in, the Court will discuss the petition at a Friday conference and decide whether to grant review.

For more information on:

Assault weapon laws, federal and state: Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence – Assault Weapons

Gun laws generally, state by state: Reuters Gun laws in the US, state by state – interactive

A history of the AR-15 and AK-47: New York Times “Tools of Modern Terror” by C.J. Chivers

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