A gun control measure on California’s ballot Nov. 8 is pitting sheriffs, police chiefs, and prosecutors against most of the state’s political establishment.
A state that already has some of the strictest limits on gun ownership in the nation is asking voters to impose regulations on ammunition sales and make it a crime not to report a stolen gun.
Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, introduced the “Safety for All” measure, officially known as Proposition 63. Newsom said the law will “help save countless lives.”
“Since we announced Prop. 63, over 10 mass shootings have occurred, along with so many other deaths that never made the headlines,” Newsom wrote in an op-ed published in the Orange County Register, adding:
Ammunition is the most lethal part of a gun, yet there is no regulation surrounding its sale. Currently, under state law, you can sell ammunition anywhere: a hospital, day care center, restaurant, school, or church. Prop. 63 will change that by treating ammo the way we treat guns. It will require ammo purchasers to pass a background check and require sellers to obtain a business license and submit sales records to law enforcement.
Supporters of the gun measure include the state’s two U.S. senators, Democrats Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer. They also include California Secretary of State Alex Padilla, state Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, numerous mayors, and the state’s two largest newspapers, the Los Angeles Times and the San Francisco Chronicle, and the fourth-largest newspaper, The Sacramento Bee.
Among those lined up against them in opposition to the measure are the California Police Chiefs Association, California State Sheriffs’ Association, Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County, California Correctional Peace Officers Association, California Fish & Game Wardens Association, California Reserve Peace Officers Association, Western State Sheriffs’ Association, Law Enforcement Action Network, San Francisco Veteran Police Officers Association, and Law Enforcement Alliance of America.
“We see this as a continued erosion of what we believe are Second Amendment rights,” Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood, president of the California State Sheriffs’ Association, told The Daily Signal in a phone interview. “California has the strictest gun laws now and they have no impact on crime because senators aren’t going to follow the law.”
Youngblood said his own personal experience showed why these laws would be bad policy.
“I’ve been the victim of a gun theft, and I didn’t realize it for several days,” Youngblood said. “I would have been in violation.”
The measure would require a license to sell a box of ammunition and a background check to purchase one. It also would create a new database.
The proposal would allow authorities to confiscate magazines that hold more than 10 rounds, something Californians already are prohibited from buying, according to the Los Angeles Assistant District Attorneys Association, one of the law enforcement groups opposing the measure.
Six-time Olympic shooting medalist Kimberly Rhode is among the highest-profile opponents.
“Only bureaucrats would believe that criminals and terrorists would jump through these hoops to buy ammunition,” Rhode said in a written statement sent to members of the National Rifle Association, adding:
The enormous expense and time to enforce this proposition will fall on the taxpayers. Fact is, this proposal is nothing more than an anti-gun power grab: Newsom hasn’t gotten us to give up our guns, so he’s trying to take away our ammunition instead.
The measure seems likely to pass, as a California Counts poll of 959 voters in August found that 93 percent of Democrats and 60 percent of Republicans support the measure.
While California Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t weighed in on the matter, in 2013 the Democrat vetoed a bill that would have mandated the reporting of stolen guns. Brown said at the time:
I am not convinced that criminalizing the failure to report a lost or stolen firearm would improve identification of gun traffickers or help law enforcement disarm people prohibited from possessing guns. I continue to believe that responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not.
It’s wrong to make a criminal out of someone who may not even realize his or her gun is stolen or missing, said John Malcolm, director of The Heritage Foundation’s Edwin Meese III Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
“This law could make criminals out of people who are morally blameless,” Malcolm told The Daily Signal. “These are special taxes and background checks on ammunition, just to make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to keep and bear arms. It’s an assault on the Second Amendment.”
Some opponents of the measure agree with a provision to make the stealing of a firearm from a misdemeanor to a felony.
However, the Association of Deputy District Attorneys for Los Angeles County pointed out that Newsom previously supported Proposition 47, which made it a misdemeanor to steal a gun valued at less than $950.
The measure would do nothing to deter crime, Michele Hanisee, the group’s president, said.
“For one thing, this initiative would do nothing to stop criminals from acquiring ammunition, guns, or large-capacity magazines. But it would make it prohibitively difficult for responsible gun owners to obtain ammunition for sport and home defense,” Hanisee said, adding:
As prosecutors, we would enthusiastically support any proposed law that promised to be a realistic tool against gun violence. But Prop. 63 is simply bad public policy. Its passage would have zero effect on criminals—other than to encourage them to commit more crimes. At the same time, it would criminalize the conduct of ordinary citizens.
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