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Analysis

The Gilroy shooting shows one glaring problem with state gun policy

The state has some of the most progressive gun policies in the country, yet gun violence persists.

GILROY, CALIFORNIA - JULY 29: A woman leaves mementos at a makeshift memorial outside the site of the Gilroy Garlic Festival after a mass shooting took place at the event yesterday on July 29, 2019 in Gilroy, California.  Three victims were killed and at least a dozen were wounded before police officers killed the suspect. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
GILROY, CALIFORNIA - JULY 29: A woman leaves mementos at a makeshift memorial outside the site of the Gilroy Garlic Festival after a mass shooting took place at the event yesterday on July 29, 2019 in Gilroy, California. Three victims were killed and at least a dozen were wounded before police officers killed the suspect. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

In January, nearly a dozen new gun laws in California took effect. These measures constituted a significant overhaul of the policy landscape. The minimum age to purchase a rifle or shotgun was raised from 18 to 21. Lifetime bans on gun ownership were instituted for anyone either convicted of domestic violence or who were involuntarily hospitalized for mental illness more than once in a single year. The state also passed a ban on bump stocks and multiburst trigger devices.

These new steps only added to California’s already well-stacked progressive gun policy suite. After a shooting at a Stockton elementary school in 1989 that left five students dead, the state became the first to ban assault weapons.

California also mandates that prospective gun owners must pass a written test, obtain a Firearm Safety Certificate, and be subject to a 10-day waiting period between applying to purchase the firearm and actually obtaining the weapon. All firearm and ammunition dealers must have a state license. Private gun sales require a background check, mandatory waiting period, and a licensed dealer for completion. Concealed carry permits are awarded to those who can demonstrate good moral character and just cause. The state also keeps permanent records for firearm sales.

Many advocates and advocacy groups have been pushing for federal “red flag” laws, which would permit a concerned party the right to request a gun seizure if they feel that a gun owner is a danger to themselves or others. California has had such a law in place since 2014.

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And yet a 19-year-old gunman was able to allegedly obtain a military-style semiautomatic rifle and mete out wanton destruction at the Garlic Festival in Gilroy, California. Three people — including a 6 year-old and a 13 year-old — were killed; several others were injured.

The gunman used an AK-47 variant rifle — modeled after an older Russian weapon — currently banned in California. He was able to legally purchase it in Nevada. According to the Nevada store owner, the sale began online and when he met the suspect in person he gave no impression that he was capable of such horrific crimes.

What good is a law in one state if the neighboring states’ laws undermine it? California lawmakers anticipated even this. Since 2014, the Golden State requires those who purchase a gun out-of-state to have it delivered to a licensed California arms dealer and file a report to the state Department of Justice documenting the purchase.

Santino William Legan, who police have identified as the Gilroy gunman, was able to elude all of the policies arrayed against him. While all reports indicate he’s a Bay Area native, he is also alleged to have been living in Nevada at the time of the purchase. Police searched an apartment in Nevada linked to the shooter, and there’s been no word on what they were either looking for, or what they found.

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On Monday, Big Mikes Gun and Ammo in Fallon, Nevada posted on their Facebook page how disappointed and heartbroken they were over the shooting.

“I have always said we will sell to good people and have done everything we can to make sure this happens. We obey the Laws, We are a small home business, we sell to people who we think are upstanding citizens to promote safe sport shooting. I pray to God for all the families. I did not know this individual. He ordered the rifle off my internet page. When I did see him, he was acting happy and showed no reasons for concern. I would never ever sell any firearm to anyone who acted wrong or looks associated with any bad group like white power. Everyone is my brother and sister and I am mourning for the families.”

According to police Legan was able to gain entry to the festival by cutting through a fence near the parking lot of the park. Once inside the festival, at approximately 5:41 p.m., he opened fire. He was later shot and killed during a confrontation with police already on the grounds providing support for the festival.

The three victims were identified as Stephen Romero, 6, Keyla Salazar, 13, and Trevor Irby, 25.

The entire shooting incident was over and done in under a minute.