Days after the shooting death of a Sacramento police officer, Gov. Gavin Newsom signaled Tuesday that he was prepared to sign additional gun control measures making their way through the California Legislature.
Newsom made his comments as he touted a new state law taking effect July 1 that will require background checks of people purchasing ammunition to make sure they are not prohibited from possessing firearms.
The governor was asked about the death Wednesday of Sacramento police Officer Tara O’Sullivan, who was shot in an ambush after she responded to a domestic violence call.
Officers say the alleged gunman had criminal convictions for domestic violence, DUI and battery, and had guns that are illegal in California, including two assault weapons.
Newsom said Tuesday he has provided millions of dollars more funding in his budget to remove guns from prohibited persons. He also has supported California’s “red flag” law, which allows family members and law enforcement officers to seek a court order to remove all firearms from an individual deemed to pose a danger.
Ten bills are pending in the Legislature that would expand the law, including one that would allow teachers, employers and co-workers to also petition the courts to remove guns from people determined to be a public risk.
The governor said there were a number of legislative efforts “to expand the scope of the red flag laws” that he hoped would get to his desk. “I expect they will be supported overwhelmingly upstairs,” he added, referring to the Legislature.
Other proposals to build on the “red flag” law would extend the duration of gun violence restraining orders from one to five years, increase training of police officers in how to use the law, and permit gun owners to voluntarily surrender their firearms to a court.
The governor also predicted that lives would be saved by the new ammunition background check law, which was part of Proposition 63, an initiative supported by Newsom that was approved by California voters in 2016. The Legislature revamped the new law to allow the nation’s first instant background checks at point of sale.
“In so many ways on the issue of gun safety from 1993 forward California has led,” Newsom said. “We have seen as a consequence of that a significant decline in the gun murder rate in this state that goes well beyond the trend line nationally. Gun safety laws save lives.”
The National Rifle Assn. and other groups are challenging the new background check in court, claiming it is an infringement of their rights to have firearms. Gun groups have won a court order blocking another provision of Proposition 63 that prohibits the possession of large-capacity ammunition magazines.
Newsom criticized the legal challenges. “The extreme rhetoric on the other side that denies simple background checks has to be called out,” Newsom said.
The governor’s news conference was attended by former state Senate leader Kevin De León, who feuded with Newsom in 2016 over who was championing the best gun control ideas. De León, who is running for Los Angeles City Council, introduced legislation in 2016 that preempted parts of Proposition 63 by simplifying the background check process.
At the time, Newsom said he was going ahead with his initiative, adding, “The Legislature has shown mixed results in passing legislation to address gun violence.” De León said back then that the “downside” of Newsom’s initiative was “you will provide aid to gun-control opponents by giving cover to reluctant legislators who would rather sidestep this important issue in lieu of a ballot initiative.”
On Tuesday, Newsom and De León each credited the other for enacting gun safety laws and they even embraced at one point. The governor downplayed their past differences. “We are looking forward,” he said.
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