Synagogue shooting suspect slipped through cracks, a push to lower voting age, and California sues Trump. Again

Good morning, California.

“Clearly, this software is faulty. It really should not be used by any law enforcement agency at this point.”—Assemblyman Phil Ting, to the San Francisco Chronicle, after facial-recognition software mistook him for a criminal. 

  • The San Francisco Democrat is carrying legislation to bar police from using body cameras to scan faces for possible criminals. The software mistook Ting and 25 other legislators for suspected criminals. The ACLU backs the measure. Police oppose it.

Synagogue suspect’s rifle

Chabad of Poway synagogue

The 19-year-old charged with shooting a worshiper to death at a Poway synagogue during Passover in April slipped through a crack when he bought his semi-automatic assault rifle from a San Diego gun shop, ABC-10 of San Diego reported.

Court records unsealed two weeks ago showed the accused shooter, John Earnest, paid $963.41 for his AR-15 type rifle at San Diego Guns shortly before he opened fire at Chabad of Poway, as detailed by The San Diego Union Tribune.

Earnest is accused of killing congregant Lori Gilbert-Kaye, 60, and wounding Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, another man and an 8-year-old girl.

Earnest, who faces state and federal charges, was 19 when bought the rifle.

Although the gun may have complied with various state requirements, people under 21 generally cannot legally buy a rifle under a law that took effect on Jan. 1.

  • There is an exception for younger buyers who have valid hunting licenses.
  • Earnest’s hunting license was not valid, according to Jordan Traverso, California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman. 

Exactly how Earnest managed to purchase the AR-15 is not clear. 

  • The dealer would have inspected his driver’s license and hunting license to ensure he could legally buy the gun .
  • Under California state law dating back to Gov. Pete Wilson’s tenure, dealers who sell firearms improperly to minors can face criminal charges. They also can be sued by people injured by those guns.

Democratic Sen. Anthony Portantino, of La Cañada Flintridge, authored the 2018 legislation raising the age to buy a gun to 21.

Portantino issued a statement Tuesday saying he intends to amend legislation he’s carrying this year to prohibit the sale of semi-automatic rifles to people under 21.

Lowering voter age

Legislators rally in support of lowering the voting age to 17.

High schoolers could be asking for rides to polling places if a constitutional amendment makes its way onto the 2020 ballot and wins voter approval.

Assemblyman Evan Low, a Campbell Democrat, is carrying Assembly Constitutional Amendment 8. It would ask voters whether to lower the voting age to 17. 

Low pushed the same bill in 2017, but it failed to reach the 54-vote supermajority needed in the 80-seat Assembly. Democrats supported it, and Republicans opposed it. 

Low’s chance of winning passage appears to be greater this year. With Democratic gains last November, there are 61 Democrats in the lower house.

What impact a lowered voting age might have is to be determined. Voters 18-24 have the worst turnout rate of all age groups. 

Mindy Romero, an expert on youth turnout and the director of the California Civic Engagement Project at the University of Southern California:

  • “Young people tend to have a hard time figuring out why it’s important for them to vote. That’s not coming out of thin air. Any time you do an election reform, it’s typically only as good as the outreach and the education around that.”

Take a number: 55

Attorney General Xavier Becerra, CARB Chairwoman Mary Nichols, Gov. Gavin Newsom and CalEPA Secretary Jared Blumenfeld

With apologies to Theodore Roosevelt, California Air Resources Board Chairwoman Mary Nichols described California’s strategy for confronting the Trump administration: “Speak softly and have a really good lawyer.”

Nichols, Gov. Gavin Newsom and their lawyer, Attorney General Xavier Becerra, convened a press conference Tuesday to announce the 55th suit by California against the Trump administration, as counted by CalMatters’ Ben Christopher.

The latest: California joined a coalition of 22 states in filing a lawsuit over the Trump administration’s repeal of the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule would relax restrictions on coal-burning power plants. The coalition argues that the rule lets the EPA avoid its legal duty under the Clean Air Act to address pollution from power plants, not that California relies on coal.

  • Becerra: “The EPA and the Trump administration are backsliding once again, bending over backwards for special interests at the expense of the public’s interest.”

Next up: Becerra says California is ready to sue over the Trump administration’s effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act.

What to know about family leave

California paid family leave expansion
Starting next July, California workers will get an extra two weeks of paid family leave.

Gov. Gavin Newsom, father of four, has said he wants every baby in California to be cared for by a parent or family member for its first six months of life. 

Making progress toward that goal, Newsom recently convinced the Legislature to approve extending California’s paid family leave from six weeks to eight weeks, giving parents more time to bond with a new baby. 

How’s that going to work? CalMatters’ Laurel Rosenhall read the fine print and talked to experts, and offers up this guide to help expecting parents make the most of the new perk.

Commentary at CalMatters

Genevieve Abedon, Clean Seas Lobbying Coalition: We’re choking on plastic. California must take the lead in reducing its use. We in the Clean Seas Lobbying Coalition are asking Californians to contact their legislators to urge their support for legislation that would significantly reduce plastic waste.

Dan Walters, CalMatters: The Legislature is now in the final month of its 2019 session, and many high-profile issues are still pending.

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