Fifty or so gun activists gathered Saturday morning at Sacramento’s Cesar Chavez Plaza to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing of six gun control measures they said would turn “law-abiding citizens into criminals.”
One bill Brown signed will expand the state’s assault weapons ban to include “bullet-button” rifles, which allow users to quickly dislodge a magazine of ammunition by pressing a button. Others prohibit citizens from possessing magazines that hold more than 10 rounds and require background checks on people purchasing ammunition.
These stricter measures come as pressure grows nationwide to do something to rein in the proliferation of guns following a string of mass shootings, including one last month that left 49 people dead in a Florida gay nightclub.
In Washington, D.C., members of Congress recently staged a sit-in on the House floor to force a vote on gun control.
Protesters from cities across Northern California gathered at the intersection of 10th and J streets 9 a.m. Saturday. They hoisted a banner that listed the bills signed by Brown, next to the phrase: “WE WILL NOT COMPLY.”
Cory Gwathney, a co-organizer of the protest who lives in Chico, said the rally had been in the works for over two months. The initial goal was to prevent Brown from signing the bills, Gwathney said, but because the laws were signed prior to the protest, the activists changed their message to one of noncompliance.
“He passed them yesterday before we could get out here, which sort of threw a wrench in the plans,” said Gwathney. “Now we’re just trying to send the message that we’re probably not going to comply. They’re infringing on our rights, and we’re not going to stand for that.”
Gwathney said it’s unlikely people will actually register their bullet-button rifles or turn in their large-capacity magazines as the laws require. People have invested thousands of dollars in bullet-button rifles, ammunition and magazines, Gwathney said, joking that his guns are his 401(k) plan.
Protester Steve Sarvar traveled from San Jose to participate in the rally. Sarver is a member of American Patriot the III% California, a group that takes its name from the claim that only 3 percent of colonists during the American Revolution fought on the battlefield against Great Britain.
Due to last Sunday’s neo-Nazi protest at the Capitol, at which 10 people were injured, including five who were stabbed, law enforcement kept a close watch on Saturday’s event, Sarvar said, but there was no violence.
“I went over to the officers and asked them, ‘Do we look like criminals to you?’ And they all said that no, we didn’t,” Sarvar said. “But then I told them that this legislation that’s just been signed into law is going to turn ordinary people into criminals.”
Jorge Riley, president of the Sacramento chapter of the conservative California Republic Assembly organization, also traveled from Chico for the protest. He said people need to work through the legal system to try to stop the new laws.
“There needs to be a complaint filed with an injunction because these are an unconstitutional set of laws that have been passed, and they shouldn’t be able to become laws until they are reviewed by a judge,” Riley said. “It’s unconstitutional, that’s why we have judicial review.”
Riley described the Legislature and Brown’s actions as “reckless and irresponsible,” adding that they are trying to “usurp the federal Constitution” by passing legislation that conflicts with federal law.
The new laws will also be ineffective in preventing mass shootings like the recent Orlando massacre and last December’s San Bernardino attack, protesters argued. Assault weapons played a role in both shootings.
“When you pass laws that restrict guns, you stimulate a black market,” said Riley. “So the only thing is that people will still have guns, but they’ll have them illegally.”
Scott said the activists will continue protesting at the Capitol and in other parts of California, though many gun rights advocates may have resigned themselves after hearing about the laws Brown signed.
“I think a lot of people who planned on coming out today didn’t come out after all, because they think it’s a lost cause,” Gwathney said.