Proposition 63: Gun control

1oo percent of precincts reporting partial returns—will be updated when all results are certified.


Even though California has some of the toughest gun restrictions in the country, political will intensified this year to pass even stiffer laws. Motivated in part by the December shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead, Democrats in the Legislature advanced several gun control bills, many of which were signed into law. All the while, Democratic Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom was leading the effort to put Prop. 63 before voters. The newly-passed laws overlap with two of the six gun-control policies included in this measure.

What would it do?

The two parts of Prop. 63 that are similar to newly-approved state laws are provisions that would require criminal background checks for people purchasing ammunition and prohibit possession of large-capacity magazines (those that hold more than 10 bullets).

Other pieces of Prop. 63 would make new requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms and ammunition to authorities; prohibit people from possessing firearms if they’re convicted of stealing a firearm; establish new ways for authorities to remove guns from people who are prohibited from owning them; change theft of a gun worth $950 or less from a misdemeanor to a felony; strengthen the national criminal background check system by requiring the state to share information about people who are prohibited from owning firearms.

What would it cost the government?

Tens of millions of dollars a year related to new processes for removing firearms from people who are not allowed to own them because they’ve been convicted of a crime. Millions of dollars annually to regulate ammunition sales and jail those facing stiffer penalties for certain gun crimes.

Why is it on the ballot?

Newsom, who is running for governor in 2018, put forth Prop. 63 after consulting with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence in San Francisco.  

What supporters say:

Something must be done about gun violence, which injures or kills more than 300 Americans each day. Even in California’s Democratic-controlled statehouse, the gun lobby has successfully blocked efforts to pass some policies aimed at keeping guns and ammunition out of the wrong hands. This initiative takes those questions directly to voters.

What opponents say:

Criminals, by definition, don’t obey the law, so putting more restrictions on guns and ammunition won’t stop them—it will just burden law-abiding gun owners. This measure is a way for Newsom to boost his image before running for governor in two years.


California Democratic Party

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom

Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California)

Barbra Streisand, singer and actress


California Republican Party

National Rifle Association

California Rifle and Pistol Association

California Police Chiefs Association

Show me the money:


More information:

  • Dueling gun-control proposals in the Legislature and on the ballot set off a tiff between two Democrats who both want to take ownership of the issue. Senate leader Kevin de Leon called Newsom’s initiative “irrelevant” in this interview on NBC Los Angeles. Newsom responded by saying the voters’ will should trump the Legislature’s decisions. De Leon later endorsed Prop. 63, saying he wants to “send a powerful and united message to the national Gun Lobby.”
  • The Los Angeles Times has a good run-down of the gun laws Brown signed and vetoed this year. Another L.A. Times story looks at the relatively small amount of money the NRA is spending against Prop. 63, compared with how much it’s pouring into fighting gun measures in other states.
  • Gun control in a blue state is more complicated than you’d think — that was our analysis of gun policy in California at the time of the San Bernardino shooting late last year.

Newspaper Editorials:

Supporting Prop. 63: Los Angeles TimesSan Francisco ChronicleSacramento Bee, San Diego Union Tribune, Mercury News

Opposing Prop. 63: Bakersfield Californian, Fresno Bee, Press Enterprise

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: