Capitol Alert

Jerry Brown calls other states’ gun laws ‘gigantic back door’ for terrorists

Gov. Jerry Brown said Saturday that “wide open” gun laws in Nevada and Arizona are a “gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk,” while he was noncommittal on efforts to strengthen gun control measures in California.

Brown, arriving in France for climate talks after the mass shooting in San Bernardino last week, called the shooting a terrorist attack.

The guns used were purchased legally in California before being modified, authorities have said.

Asked if stricter gun control laws were warranted, as some activists have argued, the fourth-term Democrat replied, “California has some of the toughest gun control laws of any state. And Nevada and Arizona are wide open, so that’s a gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.”

His remarks led to a statement by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, who said Brown’s comments politicized a tragedy and were “out of bounds.”

“Not only will we be ignoring Gov. Brown’s advice, but I call on him to retract his incredibly thoughtless and ill-advised comments,” Ducey said.

The rampage at a social services center left 14 people dead. Brown delayed his trip by one day to the United Nations climate summit, traveling to San Bernardino after the attack. Nancy McFadden, the governor’s executive secretary, said Brown would not have left the state “if there were active shooters still out there.”

Brown said the investigation is a federal matter and that the climate talks are significant. World leaders are meeting in France to negotiate a global climate pact.

“It’s an important topic, this is an important forum, California has a role to play, and I want to make sure I did that,” Brown said. “At the same time, I don’t minimize the significance of this terrorist attack. … It’s a very clear indication that this is a global phenomenon and that people who are committed to this jihadist doctrine are going to be killing people in very unexpected places. So we have to be, as I said, we have to be on our guard and we have to do whatever we can do.”

Brown said terrorism is a more difficult problem to address than climate change because “we know what to do about climate change.”

“Terrorism, because it’s shadowy and people are concealing themselves,” he said, “it’s more difficult.”

Brown’s remarks came a day after Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, said he plans to introduce legislation that would prohibit people on the government’s no-fly list from buying guns and certain chemicals.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who introduced a ballot measure in October to strengthen gun control laws in California, said in a written appeal on Saturday that “the violence will not end until we collectively decide we’re going to do something about it.” He said the measure, which would include banning the possession of large-capacity magazines, would “set the gold standard for meaningful reforms to stop gun violence.”

Brown said he would “certainly take a look at” proposals to change California law.

Proponents of gun rights have said additional regulations would not have prevented the attack in San Bernardino and that gun control advocates are politicizing the tragedy.

Brown has taken mixed actions on gun control measures since returning to office in 2011. In 2013, he signed legislation requiring buyers of long guns to obtain firearm safety certificates and banning the use of lead ammunition in hunting in California. But he vetoed a bill to ban the sale of semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines capable of rapid shooting.

“The state of California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines,” Brown said in a veto message that year. “While the author’s intent is to strengthen these restrictions, this bill goes much farther by banning any semi-automatic rifle with a detachable magazine.”

At the time, Brown said the law would ban rifles used for hunting and marksmanship, writing “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders

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