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Trump v. California

In this corner: Justice

For basic background, start with The weigh-in: Justice

Civil Rights
All talk, no action—yet
It's on!
On the ropes
California wins!
Trump wins!
It's on!

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has filed a lawsuit against California over immigrant-friendly laws that push back on immigration enforcement and detention by the federal government.

The lawsuit alleges that California is in violation of the U.S. Constitution because of three of its “sanctuary” laws, which it says obstruct enforcement of federal immigration law and impact public safety, according to national news sources.

Sessions is scheduled to announce the move Wednesday morning at a yearly state law-enforcement event.

The three laws the Department of Justice is asking the courts to strike down are AB 450, which requires employers to keep information about their employees private without a court order; AB 103, which mandates inspections for immigration detention facilities in the state, and SB 54, the law that limits interaction between local law enforcement and federal authorities. All took effect this year.

The best known of the three measures prohibits local law enforcers from questioning people about their immigration status during regular interactions and bans some detentions requested by federal authorities. It does allow state officials to cooperate with federal agents in situations where deportation is required for those who have committed up to 800 serious crimes.

On Tuesday evening, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra responded to the lawsuit, saying “state law is in concert with federal law.”

He pointed out that state officials do often work with federal law enforcers on drug, gang and human-trafficking crimes, and that will continue.

“What we won’t do is change from being focused on public safety,” he said. “We are in the business of public safety, not of deportation.”

He argues that state and local jurisdictions have a right to determine their own public-safety policies, and it works best when they are “focusing their time as law enforcement officials and their resources on combating dangerous criminals rather than on immigration enforcement.”

Becerra said he and his office will defend the state against the lawsuit, calling it a “B-movie” he has seen before.

“No matter what happens in Washington, California will stay the course and enforce all our laws and protect all our people. That’s how we keep our community safe here in California,” he said.

Governor Jerry Brown responded to reports of the lawsuit with a statement: “At a time of unprecedented political turmoil, Jeff Sessions has come to California to further divide and polarize America. Jeff, these political stunts may be the norm in Washington, but they don’t work here. SAD!!!”

When Brown signed SB 54 into law, he issued a statement that said, “This bill does not prevent or prohibit Immigration and Customs Enforcement or the Department of Homeland Security from doing their own work in any way. They are free to use their own considerable resources to enforce federal immigration law in California.”

All talk, no action—yet

For the fourth time this year, Congress has prevented the Trump administration from arresting medical marijuana users. But for California medical growers and users to feel safe from federal prosecution, Congress will need to act a fifth time before the end of 2017.

Late last week, Congress passed and President Trump signed a temporary spending measure to fund the federal government through December 22. Included in that legislation was the Rohrabacher-Blumenauer amendment, which prohibits the Department of Justice from using federal funds to interfere with state-sanctioned medical cannabis operations. The amendment has in one form or another been attached to federal spending bills since 2014, effectively handcuffing DOJ from enforcing a federal prohibition on pot that categorizes the drug in the same class as heroin and other heavy narcotics. California legalized medical marijuana in the 1990’s.

Medical marijuana, photo via Wikimedia Commons

Medical marijuana, photo via Wikimedia Commons

Led by outspoken marijuana critic Attorney General Jeff Sessions, the Trump administration has repeatedly chafed at the amendment, issuing signing statements and other official communications challenging its lawfulness.

Cannabis proponents are reportedly confident that Rohrabacher-Blumenauer will again survive a new spending bill, as the provision enjoys bipartisan support. Several prominent California Republicans support the initiative, including Rep. Dana Rohrabacher of Costa Mesa and Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine.

The amendment only protects medical marijuana operations. California will fully legalize recreational pot Jan 1.


In yet another challenge to a Trump administration priority, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is calling on Congress to nix legislation that would allow out-of-state gun owners to pack concealed firearms in public places throughout California.

Becerra and 17 other attorneys general from states across the U.S. sent a letter to Congressional leaders yesterday urging them to kill two concealed-carry reciprocity bills introduced earlier this year. A long-sought goal of the National Rifle Association, the proposed legislation would treat permits to carry concealed firearms much like drivers’ licenses: A gun permit in one state would have to be honored in another, regardless of how much easier it is to get a permit in a state like Utah than in California. Twelve states allow their residents to carry concealed firearms without a permit.

While referencing the mass shooting in Las Vegas that occurred earlier this month, the letter argues that the proposed legislation would make it extremely difficult for local law enforcement to determine when a individual is illegally possessing a firearm in public, because that individual could claim he or she has a valid permit from another state. Other signatories to the letter included attorneys general from New York, Washington, Virginia, Oregon and North Carolina.

Becerra joins a growing chorus of California political leaders who have voiced opposition to concealed carry reciprocity. Last month, lawmakers approved a resolution sponsored by Los Angeles Democratic Assemblyman Miguel Santiago that also urged Congress to kill the bills.

Both the House and Senate versions of concealed carry reciprocity legislation have yet to receive a vote.

All talk, no action—yet

The Las Vegas mass shooting that left 58 dead and hundreds wounded has renewed attention on proposed federal legislation supported by the Trump administration that could undermine California’s strict gun control laws.

A National Rifle Association statement issued yesterday in response to the attack urged federal gun regulators to review the legality of “bump fire” stocks, accessory equipment that may have enabled the Las Vegas gunman to transform semiautomatic weapons into a machine gun-like firearm. Bump fire stocks are illegal under California law, although there is some ambiguity around the prohibition.

Concealed handgun

Photo by Ibro Palic via Flickr

“In an increasingly dangerous world, the NRA remains focused on our mission: strengthening Americans’ Second Amendment freedom to defend themselves, their families and their communities,” the statement reads. “To that end…we urge Congress to pass National Right-to-Carry reciprocity, which will allow law-abiding Americans to defend themselves and their families from acts of violence.”

But while widely received as a surprising concession by the NRA, the statement also reaffirmed the organization’s support for national concealed carry reciprocity legislation. Two such bills in Congress would treat a permit to carry hidden firearms in a public place much like a driver’s license: A permit in one state would have to be honored in another, regardless of how much easier it is to get a permit in a state like Utah than a state like California.

California legislators have called on Congress to nix the concealed-carry reciprocity bills. A poll conducted in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting found that only 9 percent of Californians believed that if the Las Vegas crowd had been armed, it would have made the situation better.


California lawmakers have called on Congress to reject federal legislation that would allow out-of-state gun owners to pack concealed firearms in public places throughout California.

Before adjourning for the year last week, legislators approved a resolution against two “concealed-carry reciprocity” bills backed by the Trump administration. Those bills would treat permits to carry concealed firearms much like driver’s licenses: A permit in one state would have to be honored in another.

Assemblyman Miguel Santiago, a Los Angeles Democrat and author of the resolution, argued that lax gun control standards in other states would undermine California’s strict concealed-carry permitting process should the federal proposals become law. Neither the Senate nor House versions of the reciprocity bills, a top priority of the National Rifle Association, has come up for a vote.

Resolutions are non-binding, mostly symbolic statements expressing the will of the state Legislature. Only one California Republican voted for the measure: Assemblywoman Catherine Baker of Dublin.

Gun-rights activists complain that the current patchwork of state firearms laws presents undue complications for law-abiding gun owners when traveling from state to state. An owner with a permit to carry a concealed firearm in Utah, for example, could run into legal trouble if carrying the same concealed firearm while visiting California.

Legislators also tightened California’s highly restrictive criteria for granting concealed carry permits. A bill from Assemblyman Kevin McCarty, a Democrat from Sacramento, would ban school-district superintendents from granting people permission to carry concealed weapons on campus. The bill now heads to Governor Jerry Brown’s desk.

When asked whether Brown would sign the bill, a spokeswoman for the administration said the office won’t weigh in on the bill until the governor takes official action.

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