California's strict gun laws no deterrent for San Jose gunman

The state banned the sale of high-capacity magazines in 2013

A disgruntled employee who gunned down nine co-workers at a Northern California railyard Wednesday morning appears to have circumvented some of the state’s strict gun laws

The gunman, identified as maintenance worker Samuel Cassidy, 57, legally obtained the three semi-automatic pistols he used in the San Jose shooting at the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority facility.

But the magazines he used – 32 in all – held 12 to 15 rounds; magazines with more than 10 rounds are illegal in California, according to The Mercury News of San Jose. 

The state banned the sale of those magazines in 2013 and possession of them in 2016, so it’s possible the gunman obtained them legally years ago. He also could have bought them legally for a short period of time last summer during a court challenge before the ban was restored. 


It is also illegal to have a gun in a transit facility. 

"California’s ‘no gun’ policies were completely ignored by the killer," Aidan Johnston, director of federal affairs for Gun Owners of America, said, according to The Mercury News. "Did that stop the mass murderer? No. Did it leave law-abiding citizens defenseless? Yes."

"California’s ‘no gun’ policies were completely ignored by the killer. Did that stop the mass murderer? No. Did it leave law-abiding citizens defenseless? Yes."

— Aidan Johnston, Gun Owners of America

California also has a "red flag" law that allows a loved one, police and others to ask a judge to temporarily take away the person’s guns for safety reasons. That law apparently wasn’t taken advantage of in Cassidy’s situation despite the fact that both his ex-wife and one of his ex-girlfriends said he was violent.

In addition, apparently no one took steps toward having Cassidy disarmed after he drew scrutiny from U.S. customs officials in 2016 when he was found with books on terrorism and notes about hating his job after returning from a trip to the Philippines. 

The gunman also had several other weapons he bought legally but didn’t use in the shooting. 

San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo stops to view a makeshift memorial for the rail yard shooting victims in front of City Hall in San Jose, Calif., on Thursday, May 27, 2021. (Associated Press)

But despite the fact the laws didn’t stop the tragedy, gun control advocates say that doesn’t mean the laws are ineffective. 

Those in favor of gun reform also claim that federal gun laws, which President Biden has pushed early in his term in the wake of several mass shootings, would be more effective at stopping violence. 

California also has lower shooting-related mortality rates than other states with looser gun laws, according to 2019 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

For example, Mississippi sees 24.2 gun-related deaths per 100,000 people while California sees only 7.2.  


"No one gun law can stop all shootings, but California’s network of strong gun laws has helped make it one of the safest states in the country," Jessica Blitchok, a volunteer with Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said, the newspaper reported. "Even a state with strong gun laws like California, however, is only as safe as neighboring states with weak gun laws. That’s why we need bipartisan, federal action on gun safety."

Neighboring states Arizona and Nevada both have twice the number of gun deaths per capita as California, according to CDC data.