Francis Taylor, Asst. Editor
In his first weeks in office, Governor Gavin Newsom has already moved to significantly reduce the number of Californians with firearms, in follow up to his campaign stance and the leadership he demonstrated as the architect of Proposition 63, a 2016 initiative that put him at loggerheads with the National Rifle Association.
In his state budget plan released days after he took the oath of office, Newsom proposed adding $5.6 million — about 50% more than in Brown’s budget this year — to seize guns from thousands more people who are ineligible to possess firearms because of criminal convictions or mental illness.
The governor is also asking lawmakers to beef up a California Department of Justice unit responsible for enforcing laws on gun sales. And his budget also proposes more money for the Firearms Violence Research Center at UC Davis.
At the same time, state lawmakers have cited Newsom’s aggressive stance on gun control in reintroducing bills that were vetoed by Brown.
The gun-seizure program has been underfunded in the past, resulting in a backlog of some 10,000 people who bought firearms but were later charged and convicted of a felony or found to have a serious mental illness that disqualifies them from being armed.
The additional money to seize firearms is aimed at addressing longstanding issues with the gun-confiscation effort and he is expected to continue to be a loud voice for common-sense gun safety.”
Newsom was the official proponent in 2016 of Proposition 63, an initiative that outlawed large ammunition magazines, mandated background checks for those who buy bullets and levied fines for failing to report when guns are stolen or lost. It also created a process for taking guns away from people when they are convicted of a felony, which puts them in the state’s Armed Prohibited Persons System.
The system matches the names of gun buyers to a list of those who later become ineligible to own firearms because of a criminal conviction, a court judgment of serious mental illness or being subject to a domestic violence restraining order. But it currently has a backlog that could be eliminated of some 10,000 people if lawmakers approve Newsom’s budget request this spring. The plan would increase resources for seizing guns from those on the list, from $11.8 million to almost $17 million, allowing the state DOJ to remove guns from about 4,500 additional people.
Newsom clashed again with the NRA last week over a lawsuit that has blocked part of Proposition 63 — the ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines. The NRA’s California affiliate persuaded a federal judge in 2017 to prevent it from taking effect, and an appeals court upheld the preliminary injunction in July. A ruling on the merits of the law is expected any day.
The focus on gun control was heightened the day after Newsom was elected in November when a gunman killed 12 people at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks. One day later Newsom promised action, saying California “can do more and do better on gun safety,” and indicated he is open to signing bills that had been vetoed in the past.
Two days after Newsom’s comments, Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) reintroduced a bill that had been vetoed by Brown to allow teachers, employers and co-workers to seek court orders temporarily removing guns from people thought to be a danger to themselves or others. Brown said in his veto message that the Ting bill was not necessary because state law already gives law enforcement and family member’s authority to seek a gun violence restraining order.
Newsom may also face a measure that proposal is needed to prevent straw purchases, in which an eligible owner buys many guns and then sells them to people not authorized to possess firearms. In one recent year, sales to individuals ranging from five to 54 long guns per month occurred on 1,787 occasions — totaling 12,090 guns.