Will California gun laws go national?

Your guide to California policy and politics
Ben Christopher BY Ben Christopher June 3, 2022
Presented by American Property Casualty Insurance Association, Dairy Cares, Climate-Smart Agricultural Partnership and New California Coalition

Will California gun laws go national?

On Thursday morning, Democratic lawmakers gathered at the western steps of the state Capitol to commemorate victims of gun violence and orate on the need for tougher gun laws — both in California and nationally. 

Whatever fissures erupted into public view earlier this week in an Assembly leadership fight, almost all California Democrats seem to be on the same page on guns. Gov. Gavin Newsom tweeted about it and blasted out a stats-packed press release promoting California as a national model. The state Senate passed a resolution naming today, the first Friday of the month, “Gun Violence Awareness Day.” 

Both the resolution and the concept are the brainchild of Everytown for Gun Safety, the national nonprofit funded by former New York Mayor and billionaire Michael Bloomberg that advocates for tighter gun laws.

As legislators spoke, two consistent themes emerged: California’s toughest-in-the-nation gun rules are supported by most Californians (generally true) and more national restrictions are needed.

  • Sen. Nancy Skinner of Berkeley: “We are subject to the tyranny of a minority of Americans and the tyranny of an industry driven by profit and no regard for human life — none.”
  • Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel of Van Nuys: “We are safer here in the state of California because of the work that we have done…but we need action from Washington, D.C.”

Learn more about legislators mentioned in this story

Nancy Skinner

Nancy Skinner

State Senate, District 9 (Oakland)

Nancy Skinner

State Senate, District 9 (Oakland)

How she voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 9 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 53%
GOP 18%
No party 23%
Campaign Contributions

Sen. Nancy Skinner has taken at least $1.8 million from the Labor sector since she was elected to the legislature. That represents 26% of her total campaign contributions.

Jesse Gabriel

Jesse Gabriel

State Assembly, District 46 (Encino)

Jesse Gabriel

State Assembly, District 46 (Encino)

How he voted 2021-2022
Liberal Conservative
District 46 Demographics

Voter Registration

Dem 51%
GOP 19%
No party 23%
Campaign Contributions

Asm. Jesse Gabriel has taken at least $947,000 from the Labor sector since he was elected to the legislature. That represents 20% of his total campaign contributions.

Message received? We’ll see. In response to the Uvalde school massacre (which has already been partially pushed from the headlines by yet another mass shooting, this one in Tulsa) a bipartisan caucus of U.S. senators is searching for “common ground” on gun policy. 

An early candidate for a policy that could clear the 60-vote threshold needed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate: Incentives for states to adopt “red flag” laws, which could allow family members, law enforcement or potentially other concerned outsiders to petition a court to have someone’s firearms confiscated if they seem to pose a threat to themselves or others.

California is among the first states with a red flag law. It’s been on the books since 2016. Does it reduce gun violence? It’s impossible to know for sure, but the state’s most prominent gun violence researcher seems to think so.

On Thursday night, President Joe Biden gave a speech urging Congress to adopt a swath of new gun restrictions.

  • Biden: “Ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. And if we can’t ban assault weapons, then we should raise the age to purchase them from 18 to 21, strengthen background checks, enact safe storage laws and red flag laws, repeal the immunity that protects gun manufacturers from liability…these are rational commonsense measures.”

What they are — most of them anyway — are California measures. And while the legal liability proposal deals with federal law, California lawmakers are considering legislation this year to chip away at that legal shield.

In a press release sent out after Biden’s speech, the governor was happy to make that point.

  • Newsom: “Now it’s time for Congress to put the lives of our people first and pass California-tested, California-proven gun safety laws.”

The coronavirus bottom line: As of Monday, California had 8,955,662 confirmed cases (+0.7% from previous day) and 90,719 deaths (+0.1% from previous day), according to state data now updated just twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays. CalMatters is also tracking coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

California has administered 76,314,328 vaccine doses, and 75.3% of eligible Californians are fully vaccinated.


1 Election roundup: T-minus 4 days

Democrat Jay Chen speaks with prospective voters at the 62nd Garden Grove Strawberry Festival while canvassing ahead of the Tuesday primary for the new 45th Congressional District on May 29, 2022. Photo by Bing Guan for CalMatters
Democrat Jay Chen speaks with prospective voters at the 62nd Garden Grove Strawberry Festival while canvassing ahead of the Tuesday primary for the new 45th Congressional District on May 29, 2022. Photo by Bing Guan for CalMatters

Of course, the issue of gun violence, gun control and who is on which side of the National Rifle Association is a campaign issue, too. And even in what’s shaping up to be a good election year for the GOP, Democrats believe it’s a winning one.

  • On Thursday, Attorney General Rob Bonta held a press conference to emphasize his credentials on gun regulations and to tout endorsements from two major gun control advocacy groups. (This also provided another opportunity for Team Bonta to call out the Republicans in the race, including conservative Eric Early — and to say nothing about no party preference D.A. Anne Marie Schubert).
  • On Tuesday, Sacramento state Senate candidate Angelique Ashby touted her designation as a “Gun Sense” from the advocacy group Moms Demand Action. (Her chief Democratic opponent, Dave Jones, also made the list).
  • Last week, suburban Sacramento state Senate candidate Paula Villescaz called upon her Republican opponent Roger Niello to renounce his “A” rating from the NRA’s political action committee. (He didn’t).

And if you’re a voter with a mailbox, you may have seen a mailer by controller candidate Sen. Steve Glazer touting his gun control bona fides as someone who “stood up to the NRA to stop assault weapon violence.” 

Contrast that with a mailer boosting one of Glazer’s Democratic opponents, Malia Cohen. Paid for by a union-funded PAC, it asks: “Which candidate will protect a woman’s right to choose?”

Remember that the controller’s job is to ensure that the state meets its financial obligations on time and to root out government waste and mismanagement. Any connection to either gun control or reproductive health policy is — let’s say — indirect. But this is an election year.

2022 Election

Your guide to the 2022 general election in California

In other election news:

2 A look inside San Francisco’s safe injection facility

San Francisco Mayor London Breed tours a safe injection site for intravenous drug users in San Francisco on Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2018. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group
San Francisco Mayor London Breed tours a safe injection site for intravenous drug users in San Francisco on Aug. 29, 2018. Photo by Karl Mondon, Bay Area News Group

For the first time since the facility opened, reporters in San Francisco got to take a look inside a city-run center where people living on the street can eat, get connected to social services and — this is the controversial part — get high.

The reporters may have also gotten a sneak peak at the future of California’s drug policy.

The Tenderloin Center was set up after Mayor London Breed declared a state of emergency over the city’s homelessness crisis. The facility is meant to be a one-stop shop for people seeking help.

But it’s also become a “de-facto safe consumption site,” the San Francisco Standard explains: A private and safe place where people can use drugs, with overdose-reversal medication nearby. 

Vancouver, British Columbia is the first city in North America to allow such a facility to operate legally. It has been hailed by some public health experts as a model of “harm reduction,” the notion that drug policy should focus on reducing the immediate harms of addiction — namely, death and disease — rather than on abstinence or penalties. According to statistics collected by Vancouver’s regional health authority, there have been 6,440 overdoses at the site and zero deaths. 

California may be next. For years, some Democrats in the Legislature have pushed proposals that would legalize safe consumption sites. San Francisco Sen. Scott Wiener has a bill, which may go before the entire Assembly as soon as next week, to allow San Francisco, Los Angeles and Oakland to legally operate such facilities. 

That’s a tough sell for many legislators. Count Assembly GOP Leader James Gallagher of Chico among them.

  • Gallagher: “When there is no accountability for drug addiction and crime, and, in fact, policies that encourage or promote it, common sense dictates you get more of it, not less.”

3 California climate plan panned

An oil refinery operates in Martinez on January 23, 2021. Photo by Michael R. Lopez via iStock
An oil refinery operates in Martinez on Jan. 23, 2021. Photo by Michael R. Lopez via iStock

The California Air Resources Board, the agency tasked most directly with administering the state’s climate change policy, has a plan to meet the state’s ambitious greenhouse gas reduction targets.

But as CalMatters’ environment reporter Nadia Lopez reports, many climate scientists, policy experts and environmental justice advocates are not impressed.

California has been nothing if not ambitious in setting emission targets for itself:

  • Reduce planet-warming emissions 40% below 1990 levels by 2030 
  • Achieve carbon neutrality by 2045. 

The downside of setting ambitious goals is that it can be really hard to actually meet them.

One criticism of the CARB plan: It relies on the state’s presumed ability to suck carbon out of the air and store it safely forever.

  • Stanford environmental engineer Mark Jacobson: “It’s nothing close to what we would need to solve a climate problem…Completely useless.”

CalMatters Commentary

Reopen the Emergency Rental Assistance Program: The state needs to re-up the program. Just as important, it needs to fix problems with the system that let so many eligible tenants fall through the cracks, writes Paula Nazario, policy fellow at UCLA’s Latino Policy and Politics Initiative.


Other things worth your time

Some stories may require a subscription to read

Listen: Gimme Shelter on Newsom’s CARE Court proposal // CalMatters

Seduced by crypto and taken for millions // San Francisco Examiner

Sheryl Sandberg departure marks end of an era for women in tech // Washington Post

L.A. Democrats failed to mount united campaign against Sheriff Villanueva // Los Angeles Times

Alameda County to reinstate indoor mask mandate starting Friday // San Francisco Chronicle 

San Joaquin Valley methane digesters face scrutiny even as they fight climate change // KVPR

Listen: Lessons in gun control from California // New York Times

Why attacks on SF’s Asian communities rarely lead to hate-crime charges // KQED

‘It didn’t have to happen.’ Experts review video, criticize S.F. police in double fatal shooting // San Francisco Chronicle

A conversation with Anthony Rendon after a leadership challenge // New York Times

Several of D.A. George Gascón’s reforms blocked by judge // Los Angeles Times

The rise of LA’s all-female car clubs // LAist

A very serious taste test of international chip flavors, from pickled fish to beer // San Francisco Chronicle

See you next week


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