California considering first-of-its-kind law to regulate police firearm use in wake of Sacramento police shooting
Lawmakers in California announced an unprecedented bill on Monday which brings in stricter gun usage restrictions for police officers in the state. The proposed legislation comes weeks after a police shooting in Sacramento, where two officers shot an unarmed black man to death.
The case has drawn huge attention with protests breaking out in the region against rampant killings of black men by police officers.
Sacramento-based Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D), at a press conference, on Tuesday said that the proposed law would change the guideline in California's use of force laws, which will require police officers to open fire "only when necessary" rather than "when reasonable," according to reports.
Two police officers from Sacramento Police Department fired at least 20 rounds at Stephon Clark and killed him on March 18. The officers were reportedly looking for a suspect in the Meadowview neighborhood and found the 22-year-old African American standing on his grandmother's front lawn and believed that he was the suspect.
Clark reportedly ran from the police officers and was shot multiple times after the officers believed that he had pointed a gun at them. The young man was later found to be unarmed and only had his cell phone on his person, according to reports.
McCarty co-authored the bill with fellow Democrat Assemblywoman Shirley Weber, with a backing from the American Civil Liberties Union and fellow members of the California Legislative Black Caucus. Tuesday's press conference saw both the lawmakers along with leaders from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Black Lives Movement. Reports state that Stephon Clark's grandfather was also present during the press meet.
Assemblyman Christopher Holden (D), during the conference, listed the names of several unarmed black victims of police shootings and said: "We should no longer be the target practice of a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ police force."
Supporters of the bill hope that police officers will be encouraged to make de-escalation their first line of defense after standards of when they can use lethal force are increased. Multiple studies have shown that police target and kill unarmed black men in America at disproportionate rates when compared to unarmed white men.
McCarty said that the current standard laws for use of lethal force comes from an "over-100-year-old law that too often justifies deadly force incidents."
A private autopsy results released by Clark's family on Friday stated that the 22-year-old father was shot six times in the back and eight times in total by Sacramento police officers.
The autopsy noted that there were no bullet entries from the front and most of the shots were fired at his back. The review concluded that Clark was facing a house with his left side to officers when they shot him, the first round of bullets hit him in the left side under the arm. It added that the force of the bullet spun him around with his back to officers, and then six rounds penetrated his back moving in a forward trajectory, the legal team of Clark's family said.
ACLU legislative advocate Lizzie Buchen on Tuesday said: "It’s clear that the current law protects the police, not the people."