California lawmakers consider increase in spending to help security at places of worship
Two days after a gunman opened fire in a Southern California synagogue, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced he’s adding $15 million to his proposed budget to fund security at places of worship and nonprofit organizations at risk of hate-based violence.
Newsom made the announcement Monday alongside Jewish lawmakers, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and others.
The deadly shooting on the last day of the Jewish holiday Passover “shattered the illusion of safety” for religious people in the United States, said state Sen. Ben Allen, a Santa Monica Democrat who chairs of the California Legislative Jewish Caucus.
One woman was killed and three people wounded in the Saturday shooting at Chabad of Poway synagogue near San Diego.
The suspect in the shooting, a 19-year-old university student, surrendered to authorities after the rampage. He appears to have posted an anti-Jewish manifesto online about an hour before attacking the synagogue with an assault-style rifle.
“We need more than thoughts and prayers to keep us safe from hate-motivated violence,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel, a Los Angeles Democrat who authored a bill to fund security at nonprofits like synagogues.
Newsom said he will include the funding in his revised budget proposal later this month. The money would fund grants for nonprofits to hire security guards or fund physical security upgrades to their buildings if the state’s Office of Emergency Services determines they are at risk of hate crimes.
The funding will build on $4.5 million the state has allocated for similar grants since 2015. Organizations can apply if they are at risk of violence based on religion, race, sexual orientation, immigration status or other criteria.
The day before the shooting, Steinberg and several other California mayors wrote Newsom a letter asking him for additional funding for gun violence prevention programs.
Newsom didn’t make any commitments about additional funding beyond the $15 million for nonprofits, but said he’s considering his conversations with Steinberg and other mayors as he finishes his revised budget proposal over the next few days.
Newsom thanked President Donald Trump for calling him in the wake of the shooting, but criticized the president’s administration and the federal government for cutting back on programs to combat domestic terrorism. Newsom declined to say what they discussed on the call, but said said he did raise his concerns to the president.
“Anti-Semitism is on the rise,” Newsom told reporters Monday. “To be fair, it was on the rise before Trump took the oath of office, but they have accelerated,” he said, referring to statistics documenting anti-Jewish incidents.
The shooter could be charged in state or federal court.
Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale, on Monday sent a letter to the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California urging him to charge the suspect with the death penalty.
Lackey pressed for federal hate crime charges in part, he said, because policies advanced by California Democrats, such as Newsom’s death penalty moratorium, won’t result in a harsh enough punishment for the shooter.
“I am concerned about the California criminal justice system’s continuing ability to hold violent felons fully accountable,” Lackey wrote, urging the U.S. attorney to ensure the suspect “faces the maximum penalties for these unspeakable crimes.”