PolitiCal

On politics in the Golden State

Category: gun control

Tea party lawmaker tests fundraising waters for gubernatorial bid

TimDonnellyGovernor

A self-described tea party Republican lawmaker is testing the fundraising waters for a possible California gubernatorial bid.

Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) sent supporters an email Thursday asking them to contribute to his exploratory campaign and weigh in on his potential candidacy via Facebook.

"As recent as two years ago, if you had asked me if I would ever consider running for governor, I would have called you crazy," the lawmaker wrote. "A lot has changed."

A former member of the volunteer border patrol group known as the Minutemen, Donnelly was elected in 2010 on an anti-illegal immigration platform. Known for his bombastic style, the lawmaker has become one of the Legislature's most ardent supporters of gun rights and recently introduced a proposal that would allow school districts to spend education funds to train teachers, administrators and janitors to use firearms.

He made headlines last year after being detained by police at Ontario International Airport when security screeners found a loaded pistol and an ammunition magazine in his briefcase. Donnelly called the incident an "honest mistake," saying he had simply forgotten the firearm was in his bag.

So far Donnelly has the field to himself. His bid, however, poses a challenge for California Republicans, who have signaled a desire to soften the party's harsh rhetoric on issues such as immigration after years of self-inflicted wounds and declining voter registration numbers. With Democrats holding supermajorities in both houses of the Legislature, the party has been pushed to the sidelines in the Capitol.

On Thursday, Donnelly asked his supporters to help him shape his agenda.

"Ever since I was elected to the State Assembly two years ago, I've had the chance to see firsthand how our state's leaders have abandoned the dreams of ordinary Californians, mocked our cherished values, and extinguished the spirit of freedom," he wrote. "All it takes is an irate minority to change the course of history."

As of Thursday afternoon, his Facebook page had 2,975 "likes." State records show he received a single $1,000 donation after announcing his exploratory committee last year.

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-- Michael J. Mishak in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-Twin Peaks) at the Capitol. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

2 lawmakers would require California gun owners to buy insurance

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Gun owners in California would have to buy liability insurance to cover any damage caused by their firearms under legislation proposed Tuesday by two state lawmakers.

AB 231 was introduced by Democratic Assemblymen Jimmy Gomez of Echo Park and Phil Ting of San Francisco in the wake of the killing of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

“The government requires insurance as a condition of operating a car -– at the very least we should impose a similar requirement for owning a firearm,” Ting said.  “The cost to society of destruction by guns is currently being borne collectively by all of us, and not by those who, either through carelessness or malice, cause the destruction.”

However, Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said the government cannot legally require citizens to buy insurance as a condition for exercising a constitutional right -- bearing firearms.

“Also, what more can you do to discriminate against low-income residents who live in high crime areas and need their guns to defend themselves, than to require them to buy insurance they cannot afford?’’ Paredes said.

Ting also introduced a bill on Tuesday that would provide a state income tax credit of up to $1,000 to people who turn in a firearm to a local gun buyback program. “Gun buyback programs are an effective way to reduce the number of guns in circulation, and lower the risk of intentional or accidental damage by these weapons,’’ he said.

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--  Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: The Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department last month hosted “Gifts for Guns’’ in Compton,  where participants who surrendered any firearms received a gift card redeemable at Target or Ralphs. Credit: Bethany Mollenkof / Los Angeles Times

 

California voters don't want armed teachers on campus, survey says

APphoto_Inauguration Obama Essay(3)
Most California voters don’t want teachers to carry guns, think more mental health services are needed, and think spending money on counselors would do more to prevent violence than using that funding for police officers, according to a new survey.

When asked whether hiring a school counselor or a police officer would be more effective at preventing violence, 67% chose the counselor, according to the survey of 1,200 voters released by the California Endowment, a private health foundation. The survey was done in the wake of last month's killing of 20 children and six adults by a gunman at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

 “California voters understand that counseling and mental health services can help prevent senseless tragedies on campus—and frankly, that focus on prevention has been the missing ingredient from school safety efforts in recent years,” said Barbara Raymond,  director of schools policy for The California Endowment.

A group of Republican lawmakers introduced legislation this week that would allow school districts to use education funding to train teachers and administrators to use guns so they can protect students from armed invaders.

The California Endowment survey found that 31% of voters support allowing teachers trained in firearms to carry guns on school grounds.

Some 96% support training school employees in emergency response techniques, and 91% favor providing mental “first aid” training to school staff, so they can recognize the signs of mental illness in young people.

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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Mourners arriving last month in a school bus at Newtown High School for a memorial vigil attended by President Obama for the victims of the Sandy Hook School shooting. Credit: David Goldman / Associated Press

Gun control backed in survey; many fear mass shootings

APphoto_Gun Control(3)
Most Californians worry that a mass shooting will occur in their community and want their government to do more to regulate guns in the wake of deadly rampages in Connecticut and Colorado, according to a survey by the Public Policy Institute of California.

The survey released Wednesday night found that 65% of Californians agree that "government does not do enough to regulate access to guns," while 31% say government goes too far in restricting the rights of citizens to own guns.

Two-thirds of Californians support a nationwide ban on the sale of assault weapons. California already outlaws those guns.

"Strong majorities of Californians want the government to do more about regulating guns, and many worry that a mass shooting could happen in their own communities," said Mark Baldassare, president and chief executive officer of the nonpartisan institute.

Asked if they worry that a mass shooting could occur in their community, 35% said they worry a great deal and 26% "worry somewhat,'' while 20% do not worry much and 18% don’t worry at all.

The survey found that Latinos (79%) and women (70%) are much more likely to be worried than whites (44%) and men (52%) about a mass shooting in their community.

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--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson (D-Santa Barbara), looks at a semiautomatic rifle during a joint legislative informational hearing over gun control at the Capitol in Sacramento this week. Credit: Steve Yeater / Associated Press

 

California lawmakers propose arming teachers, other school workers

California Lawmaker Loaded Gun.JPEG–0b46eA group of seven Republican state lawmakers proposed legislation Wednesday that would allow school districts to use education funds to train teachers, administrators and janitors to use guns so they can protect campuses from violent intruders.

The lawmakers, led by Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of San Bernardino, made the proposal in response to last month’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six adults.

"The idea is to create essentially an invisible line of defense around our kids," Donnelly said at a Capitol news conference.

Donnelly said his AB 202 is an alternative to a dozen proposals by colleagues to impose tighter gun controls, some of which he said are a violation of the constitutional right to bear arms.

He invoked the name of Sandy Hook teacher Victoria Soto, who was killed trying to defend her students.

"We have a moral obligation that the next Vicki Soto who is faced with inexplicable evil, that she not be left defenseless. If she was [armed] she would have the ability to stop or at least slow down the killer.''

The proposal is modeled after the federal air marshal program, which assigns armed, plainclothes air marshals to many commercial airliner flights to guard against terrorism.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-Sacramento), who has worked as a school psychologist, predicted that the bill would face insurmountable opposition in the Legislature. "With all due respect to my Republican colleagues, that is just absolutely ludicrous," Yee said of the proposal. "I don’t know of any educator who would be interested in packing a gun into a school."

Yee, who has written several gun-control measures, said teachers and administrators would not have the same extensive law enforcement training as air marshals, raising concerns about risk to themselves and students if a gunman is on campus. "It’s going to be a shootout," Yee predicted. "What about stray bullets and hitting each other?"

Donnelly, who once pleaded no-contest to bringing a loaded gun to Ontario airport and was fined more than $2,200 fine, said the school marshal program would provide the same sense of security, making sure those carrying concealed weapons have permits and training and making sure nobody would know who the school marshal is.

Other supporters of the bill are Republican Assembly members Shannon Grove of Bakersfield, Curt Hagman of Chino Hills, Diane Harkey of Dana Point, Brian Jones of Santee and Don Wagner of Irvine, as well as Republican Sen. Steve Knight of Palmdale.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Assemblyman Tim Donnelly (R-San Bernardino) proposes arming teachers. He once was fined more than $2,200 for carrying a loaded handgun in his briefcase as he tried to board a flight to Sacramento. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

State lags in disarming thousands prohibited from owning guns

Californiaguns

This post has been updated. See the note at the bottom for details.

California authorities have a backlog of 19,784 people who own firearms but are prohibited from doing so because of criminal records or mental illness and therefore must be disarmed. But there is not enough staffing to clear the backlog at the current rate of enforcement, officials warned Tuesday.

The backlog, which involves about 39,000 guns, was reported in testimony by Stephen Lindley, chief of the bureau of firearms for the state Department of Justice, at a hearing on gun violence held by the Assembly and Senate public safety committees.

Each year, the state investigates and seizes the guns of about 2,000 people on the Armed Prohibited Persons list. However, about 3,000 names are added to the list each year, Lindley told the 15 legislators.

Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and other legislators urged Lindley to submit a budget proposal for funding to provide enough officers to find and disarm all who have been declared ineligible to own a gun in one year.

"We ought to get those guns out of the hands of people who are prohibited," Steinberg said during the hearing at the Capitol. Lindley said the Department of Justice was considering a $25-million plan to eliminate the backlog in three years by hiring 50 more officers and support staff.

Steinberg said it could cost about that much in one year to bring in enough officers to do the job in 12 months, adding that it "would be a very wise and worthy investment."

California conducts background checks on gun purchasers and blocks sales to those with felonies and certain mental problems. But the state also has a database that identifies people who were registered to own guns but later became disqualified because they were convicted of crimes, are subjects of restraining orders or found to have mental illness that makes them a danger to themselves and others.

[Updated 3:14 p.m. Jan. 29: In response to the problem, Democratic Sens. Mark Leno of San Francisco and President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg of Sacramento introduced a bill later Tuesday that would allow the Department of Justice to dip into funds collected when gun buyers pay a fee for background checks. There is a $20 million surplus in the account.]

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: Each year, the state seizes the guns of about 2,000 people on the Armed Prohibited Persons list, lawmakers were told Tuesday. However, about 3,000 names are added to the list each year. Credit: Associated Press

California lawmakers to hear testimony on state's gun laws

Photo: Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles). Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press
Looking at possibly tightening the state’s gun and ammunition laws, California lawmakers will hold a special hearing in Sacramento next week to review the state’s firearms policies and its history of gun violence.

The special joint hearing of the Assembly and Senate Public Safety committees comes as President Obama is pushing for federal restrictions on certain types of weapons. Many of those guns are already illegal in California, which has among the toughest gun laws of any state in the nation.

In the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., in December, many California lawmakers have already introduced bills in this state urging further restrictions on access to various weapons and ammunition.

Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) has introduced a bill that would require anyone who wants to buy ammunition to first obtain a permit and undergo a background check.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) is pushing legislation that would require gun owners to reregister their weapons annually and limit devices that allow for faster reloading of semiautomatic weapons.

Gov. Jerry Brown has in recent weeks avoided questions when asked about whether the state should have tougher gun restrictions.

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--Anthony York in Sacramento

Photo: Senator Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles). Credit: Nick Ut / Associated Press

California Senate leader proposes $10-billion U.S. mental health plan

President Obama's proposal to expand mental health programs in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre is a good start but much more should be done, according to California state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg
President Obama's proposal Wednesday to expand mental health programs in response to the Newtown, Conn., massacre is a good start but much more should be done, according to California state Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento).

Steinberg said he is traveling to Washington next week to urge federal officials to spend $10 billion more on mental health early intervention, school-based services and treatment modeled after the system funded in California under Proposition 63.

"We believe that $10-billion investment nationally would save untold numbers of lives and help untold numbers of people," Steinberg told reporters at the state Capitol as he previewed his trip.

Steinberg said he hopes to meet with Vice President Joe Biden or his staff, given that Biden was tasked by the president to come up with a comprehensive plan to address gun violence after the Newtown shooting. The Senate leader also plans to meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) and other congressional leaders during the trip, which also includes attendance at the presidential inauguration.

Voter-approved Proposition 63 raises $1 billion annually for mental health programs in California, although Steinberg complained that previously available funding has been cut by $750 million a year.

Steinberg said his emphasis on expanding mental health programs should not take away from his plan to also pursue new gun control legislation, including the plugging of loopholes in the state's ban on assault rifles.

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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento

Photo: State Senate leader Darrell Steinberg, left. Credit: Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Skelton: California Republican blazed path on gun control

Gov. George Deukmejian

SkeltonThe country's first assault weapons ban was in California, and it was signed into law by a Republican.

In Monday's column, George Skelton says then-Gov. George Deukmejian's actions nearly 24 years ago are a model for what should be done nationally.

Deukmejian was able to win his first term in office by opposing a strict handgun ban. But after a racist drifter killed five children with an AK-47 at a Stockton schoolyard, he changed course.

"My thoughts simply were that regardless of what argument somebody might make about having the right to own and possess a gun, there was no common sense reason for someone to have an assault weapon," the former governor, now 84, told Skelton.

Deukmejian now supports U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein's effort to reinstate the country's assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004.

All of Skelton's columns are here.

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Photo: Gov. George Deukmejian and his wife, Gloria, vote in Long Beach in 1982. Credit: Los Angeles Times

Tough gun control laws linked to lower death rates

Photo: An AR-15 style rifle is displayed at a gun shop. Legislation proposed by Sen. Leland Yee would tighten California's current assault weapon ban. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press

A San Francisco-based policy center on gun control laws has produced a report that says states with strict gun laws have the lowest gun-related death rates. In contrast, it reports, states with the highest per capita gun death rates have "weak" gun laws.

The study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is touted by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) as support for his own legislation tightening California's current assault weapon ban. The bill, SB47, would prohibit semiautomatic weapons from having devices that allow them to carry high-capacity magazines or easily be reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition. A similar version of the bill failed to pass in 2012.

"It is a fact that strong gun laws work and weak laws result in the loss of innocent lives," Yee said.

Yee notes that the law center cited low per-capita gun death rates in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut -- states that the law center identified as having some of the toughest gun laws in the country.

He failed to mention the law center also included California on its list of states with the strongest gun control laws and lowest gun-releated deaths. The center declares California has the toughest gun control laws in the nation and gives the state an "A minus" on its report card, a designation shared only with New Jersey and Massachussetts. 

The highest per-capita gun death rates were in Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi -- states that the law center said have weak gun control laws.

The center was formed by Bay area lawyers in 1993 following an assault weapon rampage at a San Francisco law office that ended with 10 people dead and six wounded.

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--By Paige St. John in Sacramento

Photo: An AR-15-style rifle is displayed at a gun shop. Legislation proposed by Sen. Leland Yee would tighten California's assault weapon ban. Credit: Alex Brandon / Associated Press

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