Politics & Government

Assemblyman Donnelly pushes concealed carry bill; Kashkari rolls out big endorsements

Republican Tim Donnelly, who has made gun rights a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, is pushing for legislation in the Assembly that would expand gun owners’ access to concealed carry permits.

His bill, which he promoted at the Capitol on Monday, follows a federal court ruling in February that found the state’s requirements for concealed weapons permits too restrictive.

Current state law requires applicants to show “good cause” and gives discretion over the permit process to local law enforcement officials. Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, said that process is “arbitrary and capricious,” favoring gun owners who are well connected.

Donnelly said his legislation, which would require the state Department of Justice to issue a concealed handgun permit to gun owners who pass a background check, “would make the promise of our Second Amendment a reality for every Californian.”

“A right’s not a right if you can’t exercise it,” Donnelly told reporters at the Capitol.

Donnelly’s legislation, Assembly Bill 1563, is unlikely to gain support in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, but it may further bolster his credentials with conservative activists. Donnelly’s news conference came on the same day rival Republican Neel Kashkari announced two high-profile endorsements, from former California Gov. Pete Wilson and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, the 2012 Republican presidential nominee.

“Neel is the right candidate with the right message to challenge Governor (Jerry) Brown, support Republican candidates up and down the ticket, and help us grow the party in the long term,” Wilson said in a prepared statement.

Donnelly, the Legislature’s most outspoken gun rights advocate, pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor charges related to the discovery of a firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport. Donnelly has said he forgot he had the gun.

Donnelly said Monday he has had no personal experience with the concealed carry permit process in California, but that “maybe I would be one of the first people to apply for it under my new law.”

He spoke to reporters ahead of a hearing by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the legal status of the state’s concealed carry restrictions remains uncertain.

While a three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state’s requirement that applicants for concealed-weapon permits show “good cause,” Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked the full court to review the ruling.

Nick Wilcox, with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Monday that Donnelly’s bill would inappropriately remove discretion from law enforcement officials about whether to issue concealed-weapon permits. He described the bill as a “political thing for Donnelly” and said it “has no hope of getting out of committee.”

Donnelly leads Kashkari, a former U.S. Treasury Department official, and Laguna Hills Mayor Andrew Blount in the field of Republicans bidding to unseat Brown. Kashkari, a moderate Republican and the best-funded candidate among Republicans, hinted at a public appearance on Sunday that Romney’s endorsement was coming. He also said former President George W. Bush “has been very helpful and made calls and opened doors.”

While Kashkari has gained support from the Republican Party’s political and consultant classes, he has struggled with the party’s more conservative base. At a candidate forum in Anaheim on Sunday, the one question he was asked was whether it was true he voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

Kashkari said he voted for Obama because he was getting better economic advice than the Republican nominee, John McCain.

“Yes, it is true,” Kashkari said. “But I was definitely disappointed in President Obama and what he has done as president, and that’s why I strongly supported Mitt Romney for president in 2012, and Mitt Romney is giving us a lot of help, too.”

Asked about his opponent’s endorsements, Donnelly said, “The fact that those prominent Republicans want to attach their name to a losing campaign, I think ultimately will be a mistake on their part.”