COSTA MESA, Calif.—California’s gun laws remain some of the strictest in the nation. According to the CATO Institute’s Freedom in the 50 States Index, the state is ranked 49th in the nation in firearms freedom, followed by Hawaii.
The state has restrictive assault weapons laws, mandatory background checks, waiting periods, red-flag laws, a minimum 21-year age requirement to purchase firearms, and until recently, a limit on high-capacity magazines.
However, in March, U.S. District Court Judge Roger T. Benitez enjoined the 10-round restriction on gun magazines in the state, citing its unconstitutionality. The ruling is currently being appealed by state Attorney General Xavier Becerra.
With two members of Congress running for president on a strong anti-gun platform hailing from California, many outside of the state seem to view the body politic in its entirety as reflective of its restrictive policies. This, however, doesn’t seem to be entirely the case, as conservative youth organizations across the state push for fewer restrictions on their Second Amendment rights on college campuses.
One such organization, Young Americans for Freedom, hosted retired U.S. Army Lt. Col. Allen West to speak at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California, about the topic of gun rights and restrictions. The event on May 1 drew roughly 300 to 400 attendees.
West, who was deployed to Iraq during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, was later elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2010 for Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, serving one term from 2011 to 2013. He now serves on the board of directors of the National Rifle Association.
With a number of prominent politicians in California proposing more stringent firearms restrictions, West explained the danger of gun confiscation and how no nation is immune to tyranny.
“Turn on your TV and look at what’s happening in Venezuela right now. In 2011, 2012, Hugo Chavez banned private gun ownership for the reasons of ‘gun violence.’ Look at the violence that’s being enacted upon the people,” he told The Epoch Times.
Referring to Sen. Kamala Harris and Rep. Eric Swalwell, West warned about the rhetoric that is becoming mainstream among California Democratic politicians.
“You have in California, a senator running for president who said if she was elected, she would use an executive order to eliminate the Second Amendment. You also have a representative here in California, Eric Swalwell, who has said that he will have a mandatory gun buyback program, and if you don’t participate in it, you’ll be criminalized and have your guns confiscated. So, [tyranny] can happen here.”
West was asked about the spike in youth activism against gun violence following the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018 and whether the movement’s goals are justified or misled.
“The Parkland high school is in the district that I represented, so I know it very well. I spoke there,” West said. “I think there are people, much like [Chicago Mayor] Rahm Emanuel, that believe you shouldn’t let a good crisis go to waste.”
West believes that the main issue isn’t the lack of laws to block crime-prone individuals from obtaining firearms, but a failure by law enforcement to enforce the existing laws.
“The real failure that happened down [in Parkland] was the FBI and the Broward County Sheriff’s Department received 36 call-outs and complaints on Nikolas Cruz. They did not respond appropriately. You also have the Broward Superintendent’s office and the Obama-era ‘Promise Program.’ The actions of Nikolas Cruz were never reported because they did not want to lose any funding for the school because of disciplinary issues.”
The Promise Program was an education policy put in place by the Obama administration’s Department of Education, which issued school guidelines to not suspend children of color who are “disproportionately impacted” by suspensions and expulsions, a situation the administration argued leads to a “school-to-prison” pipeline that discriminates against minority and low-income students.
“I think that young people need to make sure they get all the facts and not just get manipulated by people that have an ideological agenda,” said West.
West elaborated on ways to address school and workplace shootings without infringing on the Second Amendment. He suggested that gun-free areas aren’t a solution and only encourage shooters to attack unarmed victims.
“We should not have these ‘no-go zones’ for firearms. We have a lot of former military in our schools and I think that they should be allowed to be that first line of defense. You may also have teachers that are willing to volunteer to do that.”
West further criticized the lack of immediate action as the reason why so many lives were lost in the Parkland shooting, and explained why allowing vetted former military personnel to arm themselves on school campuses would be a solution.
“The response time has to be immediate. You can’t sit back, as you saw in Parkland. You had someone who was supposed to be the school resource officer who took no action. In a minute or two, a lot of things can happen. We need to establish that first line of defense and I say look at some of these retired military.”
West stressed that the Second Amendment is vital to the viability of the nation.
“In living my life, I’ve always been an advocate. I took an oath to the Constitution when I was a second lieutenant back in 1982, so I’ve always been one that believes in that important Second Amendment right because it guarantees all the others.”
More information on Lt. Col. Allen West can be found on his website, theoldschoolpatriot.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @AllenWest.