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.
- 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
State Senate, District 9 (Oakland)
State Senate, District 9 (Oakland)
Time in office
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.
State Assembly, District 46 (Encino)
State Assembly, District 46 (Encino)
Time in office
Constitutional Rights Attorney
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.
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1 Election roundup: T-minus 4 days
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.
Your guide to the 2022 general election in California
In other election news:
- CalMatters political reporter Alexei Koseff goes to Orange County: In two of the most competitive House races in the country, both major parties are wooing ascendant Asian American voters.
- CalMatters education reporter Joe Hong looks into Tony Thurmond’s record: Has California’s school superintendent been working “behind the scenes” — or has he been a “nonentity”?
2 A look inside San Francisco’s safe injection facility
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.
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.
- Juliana McNeil, a Tenderloin Center visitor: “They treat you like a person, not a number. Nobody else is going to embrace you like San Francisco.”
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
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.”
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.
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