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Priorities for Gun Safety in California in 2023

In the face of tragedy, California’s leaders act. They’ve led the nation on gun safety reform and made California a safer state than most.

As the first month of the new year comes to a close, communities across California are grieving at least 26 people murdered in mass shootings in just one week. So many communities also know painfully well how many other shootings never make national news but leave a wake of brutal loss and trauma just the same. After achieving an all-time record low gun death rate in 2019, California has (like nearly every corner of the country) faced a record spike in gun sales and gun violence since the start of the pandemic. Its communities need continued reform and focus on the most effective responses to this crisis.

To make California safer for all who call it home, we urge state leaders to focus on all of these key priorities:

  1. Make California the first state in the nation to create a permanent dedicated gun violence prevention and victim recovery fund through a 10% fee or tax on the corporate weapon industry’s record windfall profits. This fund could guarantee sustained investment in lifesaving programs to heal and protect communities devastated by gun violence.
  2. Strengthen California’s public carry laws to respond to the US Supreme Court’s radical Bruen ruling, which threatens to introduce a flood of loaded weapons in public spaces. This legislation should require stronger vetting and safety training to carry weapons in public, and should designate many more sensitive public locations, like public parks, playgrounds, sports arenas, and bars as off-limits to firearms.
  3. Declare gun violence a public health and safety crisis and, accordingly, direct key state agencies to develop plans to treat gun violence prevention as a priority area for grant development and funding, including victim services, youth development, public health, and crime reduction programs.
  4. Require all new semiautomatic pistols sold in the state to incorporate crime-solving “microstamping” features which etch a microscopic code (similar to a driver’s license number) unique to that firearm on ammunition cartridge cases when the gun is fired. For over a decade, gun manufacturers have exploited loopholes and refused to introduce any new pistol models that incorporate this technology. But if manufacturers won’t add this proven crime-solving feature, other entities can and must do so after manufacture and before the weapon is sold to the public.
  5. Convene an expert task force to make best practice recommendations for improving implementation and coordination in court, law enforcement, healthcare, and crime victim system responses to gun violence, including stronger collaborations on firearm industry and gun trafficking oversight, firearm relinquishment and APPS, protective order utilization, community violence intervention strategies, and homicide and shooting investigations and clearance.
  6. Strengthen restrictions on the sale and marketing of ghost gun manufacturing machines. Make people who knowingly send the digital code to print or manufacture firearms to unlicensed manufacturers civilly liable for any harms those firearms cause.
  7. Strengthen protections for survivors of domestic violence and abuse by prohibiting abusive parties subject to final domestic violence restraining orders and similar court protection orders from accessing weapons for at least three years after the restraining order expires.
  8. Utilize federal funding from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to provide coordinated training, education, and safety planning to ensure more robust utilization and understanding of all of the options available in California for civil and criminal court protective orders that can promote safety and disarm individuals at highest risk of violence. In addition to the domestic violence and gun violence restraining orders, California law offers under-utilized processes for workplace violence, postsecondary school violence, elder abuse, and civil harassment restraining orders that disqualify the respondent from accessing weapons and include broader safety protections too.
  9. Strengthen CalDOJ’s Armed and Prohibited Persons System (APPS) to ensure it is fully staffed to promptly and comprehensively recover illegally possessed firearms across California. The APPS program is a critical backstop for safety, sending trained teams to recover firearms from people known to have illegally retained weapons after a criminal conviction, restraining order, or similar event. Pay and benefits gaps and related recruitment and retention issues have prevented this program from being fully staffed and achieving its full safety potential.
  10. Strengthen California’s background check and firearm safety certificate processes. While California has many of the strong components of an effective background check and firearm licensing system, research indicates that additional reforms could lower rates of gun violence, including requiring a more thorough fingerprint-based background check, stronger safety test standards, and stronger efforts to identify and deter gun traffickers as part of the licensing process.


Interested in partnering with us to draft, enact, or implement lifesaving gun safety legislation in your community? Our attorneys provide free assistance to lawmakers, public officials, and advocates working toward solutions to the gun violence crisis.