California sheriffs announced Monday that they are opposing Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s gun-control measure aimed for the fall ballot, arguing it would not prevent criminals from obtaining guns and ammunition via the black market or theft.
Instead, the proposal would place additional restrictions on law-abiding people who want to buy ammunition for recreational use, retain guns and magazines that are currently legal or pass down historical or family heirlooms, the California State Sheriffs’ Association wrote in a letter to Newsom’s campaign.
“Effectively, this measure will create a new class of criminals out of those that already comply with common sense practices that now exist,” wrote President Martin Ryan, Amador County sheriff and PAC Chair Gregory J. Ahern, Alameda County sheriff . “The focus of efforts to reduce gun violence in this state should be on those responsible for that violence, not those that have no intent to do harm.”
The sheriffs note that they remain supportive of domestic violence restraining orders, existing background checks and waiting periods to purchase firearms.
But their position on the measure could add institutional heft to a coalition led by gun-rights groups. The chief critic to date had been the California Rifle & Pistol Association, whose Coalition for Civil Liberties considers the planned measure the biggest threat to gun rights in California in more than three decades.
Newsom’s proposal, which must collect 366,000 signatures to qualify for the November ballot, would require most people to pass background checks to buy ammunition, sales of which must be made through licensed vendors and reported to the Department of Justice.
While California has some of the nation’s most restrictive firearms policies, including a 1999 ban on assault weapons, it would expand that prohibition to high-capacity magazines grandfathered in by the law. If it passes, the owners would need 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 is working with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and their bid is backed by U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the mayors of San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose and others.