Gun control activists in California have found a good friend in the state’s new governor, Gavin Newsom.
In his first few weeks in office, Newsom has quickly moved to reduce the number of Californians with firearms and given activists hope that a number of measures vetoed by former Gov. Jerry Brown will once again see the light of day.
“We have all the ingredients we need to make meaningful change,” state Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel said Monday at a press conference in Sacramento. “We have expanded Democratic majority in both houses. We have a bright and ambitious new governor with a real track record on this issue who wants to make this a priority.”
In his state budget plan, which was released just days after he took office in January, Newsom proposed an additional $5.6 million in funding – about 50 percent more than Brown allocated in his last budget – to seize firearms from the thousands of people who are ineligible to be gun owners because of past criminal convictions or mental illness. The gun seizure program has been underfunded in the past, with the result being that around 10,000 people in the state were able to purchase firearms, but later were convicted of a felony or found to have a serious mental illness.
Newsom also wants state lawmakers to expand a California Department of Justice unit tasked with enforcing gun sale laws and, in his proposed budget, has asked for more funding for the Firearms Violence Research Center at the University of California, Davis.
In his inauguration speech, Newsom promised to be tough on “a gun lobby willing to sacrifice the lives of our children to line their pockets.”
Newsom’s outspoken support for stricter firearm laws – he was the main supporter in 2016 of Proposition 63, a measure that outlawed large ammunition magazines, mandated background checks for people who buy bullets, handed out fines for failing to report when guns are stolen or lost, and created a process for taking guns away from people convicted of a felony – has many control activists and lawmakers in Sacramento seeing a new opportunity for legislation that was vetoed under Brown.
Despite having some of the country’s toughest gun laws, California under Brown – a Democrat and gun owner – saw a number of measures struck down by the former governor’s veto pen.
During a press conference on Monday, state lawmakers and activists rattled off a list of measures vetoed by Brown that they hope to revive now that Newsom has taken office – including limiting purchases of rifles and shotguns to one per month and putting more regulations on parts that can be turned into homemade weapons.
“Stopping gun violence takes courage — the courage to do what’s right,” former Arizona Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was seriously wounded during a 2011 assassination attempt, said at the press conference. “We must never stop fighting.”
Since the beginning of the year, California state legislators have already introduced measures to put a 10-year firearm prohibition on anyone convicted of two drug or alcohol crimes in a three-year period, requiring gun owners to lock up their weapons when they are not home, and a tax on gun sales that would help fund violence prevention programs.
A bill that would permit more people to seek a gun violence restraining order against someone they believe poses a danger to themselves or others has also been reintroduced. It was previously vetoed by Brown.
Newsom has so far remained quiet on the re-introduced pieces of legislation as they make their way through the statehouse, but spokesman Jesse Melgar said in an email to the San Francisco Chronicle that the new governor “is a big believer in strong gun safety laws.”
While Newsom’s ascension to governor’s mansion has gun control activists excited about the possibility of passing stricter regulations, gun rights groups have widely panned Newsom’s proposals and accuse the new governor of pandering to his base.
“Gavin Newsom has demonstrated he has little to no understanding of firearms and firearms policy,” Craig DeLuz, a spokesman for the Firearms Policy Coalition, told the Los Angeles Times. “For him this is a PR issue, meaning he will probably sign whatever is put in front of him. He wants to run for president.”