When I was writing this story, my first headline was “L.A. Times Columnists Offer (Moderately) Pro-2A Argument,” but I ended up with what you read above because I don’t really think it’s fair to describe Erika D. Smith and Anita Chabria’s column as pro-Second Amendment at all. I mean, it concludes with an assertion that buying guns makes us all less safe, which isn’t exactly a talking point you’re going to hear at the Crossroads of the West gun show at the Orange County Fairgrounds this weekend.
Despite their feelings about gun ownership in general, their take on California’s SB 2 restricting the right to carry is still a surprising and refreshing perspective given their attitude and the paper’s traditional hostility towards the right to keep and bear arms. I would not have expected the paper to run any piece describing the state’s latest concealed carry crackdown as the “worst kind of law, pulled together from the worst kind of legislative process” as well as “reactionary and clumsy and overzealous” unless Chuck Michel somehow got ahold of the paper’s press and was able to insert his own op-ed into an early edition surreptitiously.
While there are portions of SB 2 that meet with Smith and Chabria’s approval (like increased training hours and “deepening background checks” that include everything from psychological screenings to scouring social media accounts of applicants), the pair also believe that the new law isn’t going to reduce violent crime and may very well impede the personal safety of women across the state.
The last non-self-defense homicide committed by a concealed- carry permit holder took place in 2019 in Modesto, and the assailant was charged and convicted. The second most recent happened in 2010 — a Southern California security guard who killed his ex-girlfriend and her new partner.
In Fresno County, the sheriff said there hasn’t been a crime involving any of its roughly 12,300 concealed-carry permit holders in at least two years — and Fresno has one of the highest number of permit holders in the state.
Chuck Michel, the general counsel for the California Rifle & Pistol Assn. who filed the suit over SB 2, said the law hurts more than just women who fear for their personal safety. He points to retired judges and prosecutors who may have dangerous enemies. People in the LGBTQ+ community facing rising hate crimes. And even jewelers who routinely carry gems and cash.
“There are certainly some individual circumstances where the need for that kind of permit is profound,” Michel said.
Even if you think that’s a paranoid or specious argument that inflates the need for more guns on our streets, consider this: Despite millions of dollars and countless hours spent crafting and defending SB 2, government officials can’t — or won’t — say how many people in the state have concealed-carry permits.
A few non-government sources we found estimate there are at most 200,000 people with active permits (which are valid for only two years), and an additional 100,000 pending since the Supreme Court decision — still a small fraction of California’s 3.3 million legal gun owners.
But when we asked Atty. Gen. Rob Bonta’s office for the number of active permits in their system, they told us they would need to compile that figure and it would involve a Public Records Act request.
How do you argue this rule meaningfully reduces gun violence without even being willing to openly talk about how many people it involves?
What’s interesting to me is that Smith and Chabria aren’t offering the typical arguments you’d hear from a Second Amendment supporter. Even if they’re not fans of gun ownership, they’re at least willing to acknowledge that despite all of California’s gun control laws there are still “thousands of illegal guns” on the streets of Los Angeles and other communities. As they write, “whether California likes it or not, the 2nd Amendment exists and it lets people carry guns.” That alone is a statement that very few gun control advocates are willing to make, but the two go even further and allow a gun owner and firearms instructor to make her own case for concealed carry.
Indeed, if some women have turned to arming themselves, it’s hardly ideal because of the dangers, but it unfortunately makes some sense — in California and across the country. Taking that right to carry away, whether it is offering real or only perceived safety, is another psychological harm piled on top of unforgivable policy failures.
“It makes me sad,” Maggie Martin told us. “They have gone to gun classes. They have done the work. They have done all the things to become proficient and now they are not given the option.”
Martin knows firsthand how the system fails women. She’s a gun instructor in Florida who specializes in women’s self-defense, and she is a survivor of intimate partner violence. Like so many women, she never thought it could happen to her — until she met her “knight in shining armor” on a dating app. Eight months into a relationship, it was clear he was a controlling abuser, but getting away from him was scary, she said.
She called police, but they told her — as too often happens — there was nothing they could do, and that their involvement might make the situation worse. When she finally did leave, he harassed her by driving by her house and calling her over and over again until.
In 2019, she began carrying a weapon regularly after her mother saw a segment on television about a woman killed by her abuser.
“I remember thinking, ‘I can’t do that to my mom,’ ” Martin said. “And that was the moment I decided I was not going to die.”
Instead of cracking down on responsible citizens who want to carry a firearm for self-defense, the columnists declare that the state “needs laws that actually address public safety”; a position I don’t think many Second Amendment supporters would disagree with, even though they might quibble with the specific policy proposals offered by the pair like placing licensing authority in the hands of the Attorney General instead of local sheriffs and police.
I may not agree with all of their conclusions, but it’s a nice change of pace to see gun owners treated seriously by columnists like Smith and Chabria. Let’s hope that, like the recent court victories won by Second Amendment groups and attorneys like Chuck Michel, this is the start of a new trend in California; the normalizing of gun ownership after decades of government and media efforts to make it taboo.