Lawmakers advance a California gun control bill to allow citizens to sue manufacturers and distributors over illegal and “ghost” weapons.
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As Democratic elected officials rush to toughen gun laws in the wake of Sunday’s mass shooting in Sacramento that left six dead and 12 injured, Republicans are accusing them of refusing to acknowledge the role their own policies have played in rising rates of gun violence.
On Tuesday, a key legislative committee voted 8-1 to advance a bill — sponsored by Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Rob Bonta — that co-opts the structure of Texas’ abortion ban by giving private citizens the right to sue manufacturers, sellers and distributors of illegal assault weapons, “ghost” guns and certain other firearms and to collect at least $10,000 in civil damages per weapon.
State Sen. Bob Hertzberg, the Van Nuys Democrat who authored the bill, noted “it may not be the perfect solution” — among other things, it would be invalidated if the U.S. Supreme Court were to strike down the Texas law — but said California should “use every tool available to try and reduce this extraordinary and horrible epidemic of gun violence.”
- The bill progressed the same day that Sacramento police arrested Smiley Martin — one of three suspects taken into custody in connection with the mass shooting — on charges including possession of a stolen handgun converted into a fully automatic weapon. Martin, his brother Dandrae Martin, and Daviyonne Dawson were all charged with possessing a firearm despite being prohibited from having one. Dawson was released Tuesday after posting $500,000 bail.
- Also Tuesday, a stunning Sacramento Bee report found that Smiley Martin in February won early release from a 10-year prison sentence for domestic violence and assault with great bodily injury. The ruling from the Board of Parole Hearings — part of the Newsom administration — came despite strong opposition from Sacramento County District Attorney Anne Marie Schubert’s office, which warned the board that “if he is released early, he will continue to break the law.”
- That will likely add fuel to what’s expected to be an already intense attorney general race: Schubert, a Republican-turned-independent, is one of Bonta’s main challengers for the role of California’s top cop. She’s also one of 44 district attorneys suing the Newsom administration over proposed rule changes that she says could result in the early release of thousands of violent offenders.
- Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City: Smiley Martin “was a violent felon with a long rap sheet who should have been in prison. If he was, this tragedy might have been avoided. If this violence a few blocks from the Capitol doesn’t serve as a wake-up call to the policymakers in this building, I don’t know what will.”
Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story
Former State Senate, District 18 (Chula Vista)
State Assembly, District 3 (Chico)
State Assembly, District 3 (Chico)
Time in office
Businessman / Supervisor / Farmer
Asm. James Gallagher has taken at least $498,000 from the Agriculture sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 10% of his total campaign contributions.
Meanwhile, two other high-profile crime-related bills failed Tuesday to pass key committees.
- Before it could receive a hearing, Democratic Assemblymember Al Muratsuchi of Torrance pulled his bill to toughen aspects of Proposition 47 — a 2014 ballot measure that reduced penalties for certain theft and drug offenses — and establish diversion and job training programs for some offenders. In a statement, Muratsuchi told me “the Assembly Public Safety Committee proposed to gut the bill to make it meaningless.”
- And GOP state Sen. Shannon Grove of Bakersfield’s bill to amend California penal code by defining human trafficking as a serious and violent felony failed on a 2-1 vote to pass out of the Senate Public Safety Committee.
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1. Election night — in April
As if there wasn’t enough going on in California on Tuesday, it also marked the last day for voters to cast or mail in ballots in four special elections prompted by a “Great Resignation” of lawmakers:
- Today, Democrat Lori Wilson, the former mayor of Suisun City, will be sworn in as the newest member of the state Assembly. She ran unopposed to replace Jim Frazier, a Fairfield Democrat who resigned to pursue job opportunities in the transportation sector.
- Based on unofficial results, Democrats Georgette Gómez and David Alvarez appeared headed for a June 7 runoff for the Assembly seat formerly held by Lorena Gonzalez, who resigned to take over the California Labor Federation. The race has pitted labor groups against business interests and attracted oodles of special interest money.
- Democrats Robert Pullen-Miles, mayor of Lawndale, and Tina McKinnor, a longtime political activist, seemed likely to run off to replace Autumn Burke, a Los Angeles Democrat who gave up her Assembly seat to join prominent lobbying firm Axiom Advisors.
- And former Assembly GOP leader Connie Conway advanced to a runoff, with Democrat Lourin Hubbard, a state Department of Water Resources specialist, leading for the second spot, in a six-way race to replace Republican Devin Nunes, who gave up his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives to run former President Donald Trump’s new media company.
In other Tuesday election news: San Francisco Mayor London Breed endorsed Supervisor Matt Haney over former Supervisor David Campos for the state Assembly seat David Chiu vacated to become city attorney. Haney and Campos will battle for the seat in an April 19 runoff election.
2. How oversight reshaped Oakland police
How did the Oakland Police Department become a progressive model for law enforcement agencies across California — one that sustains complaints against its officers at a higher rate than any other major law enforcement entity apart from the state Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation?
As CalMatters’ Nigel Duara reports in this beautifully written piece, the story goes back to the late 1990s, when the police departments in Oakland and Los Angeles were rocked by unrelated but similar scandals. Police gang task forces in each city were accused of planting drugs, beating suspects and — in the case of the LAPD — shooting people. But the policies resulting from those scandals played out very differently, data show: While the Oakland Police Department sustained 11.2% of complaints against its officers from 2016 to 2020, the LAPD sustained just 5.2% of complaints during that same period, more than two percentage points below state average.
- There’s been some fallout from the increased oversight in Oakland: Rank-and-file police officers are leaving the department in higher numbers.
- Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told Nigel: “I’ve been doing some exit interviews with officers that are choosing to go to other departments, and what I tell them is the Oakland way is going to be the American way any minute now.”
3. Reports paint dire climate future
From CalMatters environment reporter Julie Cart: In an alarming and remarkably comprehensive series of reports sent to lawmakers on Tuesday, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office detailed the broad public health impacts and economic disruptions climate change has wrought and could wreak on California. Although the six analyses didn’t make legislative recommendations, nor did they pull any punches in laying out a future plagued by increasing wildfires, rising seas, extreme heat, poor air quality and increasingly at-risk vulnerable populations. Among the current and expected impacts of a changing climate:
- Wildfires, heat and smoke will force more frequent school closures — disrupting education, child care and availability of free school lunches.
- Housing, rail lines, bridges, power plants and other structures are vulnerable to rising seas and tides. “Between $8 billion and $10 billion of existing property in California is likely to be underwater by 2050, with an additional $6 billion to $10 billion at risk during high tide,” the office found.
- For example, in the San Francisco Bay Area alone, 13,000 existing housing units and 104,000 job spaces “will no longer be usable” because of sea rise over the next next 40 to 100 years. And up to two-thirds of Southern California beaches may become completely eroded by 2100.
- Extreme heat is projected to cause nine deaths per 100,000 people each year, “roughly equivalent to the 2019 annual mortality rate from automobile accidents in California.”
- Project manager Rachel Ehlers said the reports aim to help lawmakers incorporate climate change in decisionmaking outside of traditionally environmental realms, including housing, health and education. For instance, would a new housing policy “have the potential to inadvertently worsen climate change impacts?”
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CalMatters columnist Dan Walters: A law that Gray Davis signed in 2003 — five days after voters decided to oust him from the governorship — is the the subject of new political and legal conflicts.
Ranked choice voting is under threat: It works, it’s cost-effective, it makes for more representative government and voters like it. But Assembly Bill 2808 seeks to end a method for casting ballots that voters themselves have chosen, argue Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Other things worth your time
Sacramento nonprofit offers free therapy after mass shooting. // Sacramento Bee
Man in viral San Francisco Walgreens shoplifting video sentenced to 16 months in prison; released for time served. // San Francisco Chronicle
California adults living with gun owners face twice the risk of homicide, study finds. // Los Angeles Times
LAPD treatment of those they’ve just shot in question. // Los Angeles Times
Student math scores touch off ‘five-alarm fire’ in California. // EdSource
California gas prices will remain over $5 for months, experts say. // Mercury News
Ballot measure would tax California’s wealthiest residents to fund efforts curbing wildfires and smoke. // San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco has highest county COVID rate as California’s decline in cases stalls. // San Francisco Chronicle
Smart & Final to pay $175K for egg price gouging in pandemic, Bonta announces. // Associated Press
California grocery workers accept deal, averting strike. // Associated Press
How will Sacramento schools make up days after teacher strike? // Sacramento Bee
Long Beach Community College adjuncts sue over unpaid work hours. // EdSource
California School Boards Association to split from national organization. // EdSource
Is Sacramento’s Dave Jones an educator? State ballot title raises questions. // Sacramento Bee
California setting up statewide medical data-exchange grid. // Capitol Weekly
Hospitals can be held responsible for sexual abuse by employees, appeals court rules. // San Francisco Chronicle
7 women sue ex-Windsor mayor, winery and social club over alleged sexual assaults. // San Francisco Chronicle
Family plans to sue S.F. police for allegedly detaining, profiling Black seventh-grader. // San Francisco Chronicle
Black Lives Matter secretly bought a $6 million California house. // New York Magazine
California State Bar will probe Armenian genocide victim payments. // Los Angeles Times
Activists seek to secure Japanese immigrants’ ‘sacred’ land in California. // Associated Press
Droughts are cutting into California’s hydropower. Here’s what that means for clean energy. // MIT Technology Review
California Rep. Bera bitten by a fox on U.S. Capitol grounds. // Los Angeles Times
21 sea lions found dead on OC coast are a mystery in an otherwise seeming normal year for rescues. // Orange County Register
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