This article in the California Bar Journal in 2003 reviews the 1993 shooting on 101 California by a 55-year old man who killed 8 and injured 6 more. The immediate reaction to this shooting was shock and disbelief; and due to the violent nature of the crime, it became a gun control issue for the families of loved ones, as well as Senator Dianne Feinstein. By banding together, some of the strictest legislation on gun control was passed in California, and also an assault weapon ban through Congress.The article discusses the ramifications that this shooting had in the following 10 years in the state of California, and on a national level.
- A year later, a federal assault weapons ban became law.
- Survivors of Ferri’s victims filed a lawsuit against the gun manufacturer that ultimately was lost before the California Supreme Court. But as a result, the state legislature repealed the immunity law that had protected gunmakers.
- Hundreds of local ordinances regulating gun ownership were adopted in communities throughout the state; many also were enacted by the legislature.
- California strengthened its assault weapons ban in 1999.
- Thousands fewer assault weapons have been manufactured and sold in the intervening decade.
- Navegar, manufacturer of the TEC-9s used by Ferri, went out of business.
- A group of San Francisco lawyers founded a non-profit anti-violence organization that today serves as a national clearinghouse for information about gun regulation.
There is no doubt, that this shooting quickly became a gun control issue. People assumed that the problem was access to weapons. I find myself asking, what about the mental health of the shooter? Can we assume that he was an ordinary person, who had ordinary access to weapons, leading to the conclusion that guns should be controlled for everyone? There is also nothing reported in this article on the shooter’s motives, the law firm’s involvement, or relevant statistics pertaining to gun-related crime. I would like to know if there was a real drop in violent crime or murders involving guns in the period during which the bill was enforced. Because, just like the crime drop in New York City, who is to say that there aren’t many other contributing factors other than guns that could explain a decrease in violent crime?
What I also found interesting about this incident was political drive and momentum gun control was able to have to pass a law so quickly and strictly, in spite of a Republican-majority in Congress at the time. I wonder if the ensuing bill would have passed, if it had not had so much support from the lawyer/attorney community, who was directly targeted in the shooting. I think it is possible that this issue became very personal for them, and they were willing to throw a strong support behind gun control. The article even talks about how a non-profit was started by lawyers called Legal Community Against Violence after the San Francisco shooting, to work with the Handgun Control group.
As far as finding the ethical grey area, this one was not as apparent as others. I could have gone into the issue of Americans’ Constitutional rights to bear arms. Or the ethical implications of suing the company who manufactured the weapons. But what I took away from this was that the shooting quickly became as issue of access. Restrict access and you solve the problem. When I don’t believe it is that this is a simple solution. In fact, the bill expired in 2004, leaving us right back where we started. What has really been accomplished?