Capitol Alert

Gun rights groups condemn Gavin Newsom’s initiative

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom: “You can’t intimidate the public.”
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom: “You can’t intimidate the public.” Sacramento Bee file

Gun groups on Thursday promised a forceful response to Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed ballot initiative to cut down gun violence in California, which includes background checks for ammunition purchases and a ban on the possession of large-capacity magazines.

“Protecting civil rights and lawfully owned personal property from police state gun grabbers like Gavin Newsom has to be everyone’s first priority,” Firearms Policy Coalition President Brandon Combs said in a statement. “If Gavin Newsom wants to declare war on law-abiding gun owners and Second Amendment rights, we’re certainly going to bring the fight to him.”

The initiative, co-authored by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, was formally unveiled Thursday at a press conference outside San Francisco’s 101 California St. office building, where a mass shooting took place in 1993.

Incorporating provisions of bills that have stalled at the state Capitol or were vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in recent years, the measure would also force ammunition sellers to be licensed like firearms dealers, establish a process to seize guns from people prohibited from owning them because of their criminal records, mandate that lost or stolen guns be reported to law enforcement, and require the California Department of Justice to notify federal authorities when someone is added to the state database of prohibited firearms owners.

Newsom argued that the proposals will help prevent illegal gun trafficking in California – which he said has an estimated 34,000 guns in the possession of convicted criminals – by closing loopholes that allow weapons to slip into the wrong hands. He blasted the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates for blocking previous legislative efforts.

“You can intimidate politicians,” he said. “Hell, you’ve been effective. But you can’t intimidate the public. That’s why we’re bringing this to the ballot.”

California illustrates the true gun control agenda, which is the ultimate confiscation and banning of firearms.

National Rifle Association

Newsom, a Democrat, is aiming to qualify his measure for the November 2016 election. That will take about 366,000 signatures – and millions of dollars, to collect them and then to mount a campaign against well-funded opposition from the gun lobby.

He has no major financial backers yet, Newsom said, but “I have no doubts that we’ll be able to raise the resources to get our message out.”

Hours later he sent a fundraising e-mail where supporters could contribute to the campaign or his run for governor in 2018.

Gun groups immediately balked at what they consider an unconstitutional attack on their right of possession and a dangerous step toward even more sweeping prohibitions.

“California illustrates the true gun control agenda, which is the ultimate confiscation and banning of firearms,” the National Rifle Association said in a statement. “They can’t repeal the Second Amendment, so they’re trying to chip away our rights until there is nothing left.”

The state already has some of the most restrictive firearms policies in the country, including a 1999 ban on assault weapons, such as the AK-47, that forbade the importation, manufacture and sale of ammunition magazines with more than 10 rounds.

The initiative would expand that prohibition to high-capacity magazines grandfathered in by the law, requiring owners to sell them to a licensed dealer, transfer them out of the state or turn them in to law enforcement to be disposed of. Newsom said there is no practical need for people to have 11 or more rounds in a single weapon.

It would also introduce point-of-sale background checks for every purchase of ammunition, a policy that would be the first of its kind in the nation. A similar bill failed in the state Legislature two years ago.

You can literally go to Burger King, if they’re willing to sell it, and buy ammunition.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

Criticizing California’s unregulated ammunition sales, Newsom said the background checks would serve as a roadblock to people forbidden from owning guns who have obtained one illegally.

“You can literally go to Burger King, if they’re willing to sell it, and buy ammunition,” he said.

Sam Paredes, executive director of advocacy group Gun Owners of California, dismissed the initiative as a publicity stunt for Newsom’s gubernatorial ambitions.

“This wouldn’t impact one single crime that has been committed in California,” he said. “It will not do anything about anything.”

Paredes said criminals could easily continue to make their own ammunition, while law-abiding citizens might be left in danger, waiting for their purchase to be approved. He called the ban on high-capacity magazines a deprivation of a gun owner’s private property rights.

“Who is he to tell anybody what we can have?” Paredes said. “No matter how small the right is infringed, an infringement is a travesty against the Constitution.”

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff

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