By Michele Hanisee
California’s law enforcement officers and prosecutors responsible for fighting criminals and terrorists need more tools to fight crime. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new ballot initiative gives us less.
Newsom is bypassing the legislative system and turning the ISIS-inspired attack in San Bernardino into his latest political scheme. His new proposal will restrict law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves.
His public relations campaign obscures the fact that his proposition is a rehashed patchwork of impractical, tried and failed ideas that will not do anything to combat crime or terrorists. Crime in Los Angeles rose by more than 12 percent in 2015, but Newsom’s idea is to clog up the courts with harmless accidental violators while limiting the ability of law-abiding citizens to protect their families.
Newsom’s distortion of the facts drew the attention of Politifact, the independent fact-checking organization that won a Pulitzer Prize for calling out politicians’ false claims. Politifact called Newsom’s rhetoric “mostly false.” One of Politifact’s experts had this to say: “The problem with the way Gavin Newsom is using this pseudo data is it’s out of context and is done in a way which is calculated to cause confusion.” That’s no surprise to the nearly 80,000 police officers and prosecutors working every day to protect California.
The centerpiece of Newsom’s proposal would require a license to sell, and a background check just to buy, a box of ammunition. This would require the creation of another complicated, expensive and inevitably flawed database, which California officials will be unable to effectively maintain. New York already tried this approach, abandoning it after wasting millions of public dollars.
His proposal would confiscate all magazines that hold more than ten rounds. But Californians have already been prohibited from buying these magazines for nearly two decades. The cities of Los Angeles and Sunnyvale tried to confiscate the remaining stock, requiring citizens to surrender legally obtained private property. Not one person complied. The only way to enforce this law is by pulling police from the streets and putting them into the homes of people who pose no threat.
Newsom also seeks the mandatory reporting of stolen or lost firearms. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed this same proposal in 2013 for good reason: “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.” Prosecuting this would also be practically impossible.
Another key element of Newsom’s plan is to make the theft of any firearm into a felony. Ironically, it was another Newsom initiative, Proposition 47, which reduced the theft of guns valued under $950 to a misdemeanor. Law enforcement agencies and officials agree with this aspect of the proposition, but it’s curious that Newsom’s only original idea is a refutation of his previous work.
Newsom, who travels with armed bodyguards, put forward his proposition without coordination from other political leaders. Even Democrats, like Gov. Brown and Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León, do not support Newsom’s approach. California’s legislative leaders are busy considering crime bills, while Newsom is circumventing them.
California has the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. But the recent terrorist attack in San Bernardino shows us that laws do little to stop the law-breakers. The only way we’re going to make progress against violence is through a cooperative effort of law enforcement, legislators, the private sector, and individual citizens who can take some responsibility for their own safety. Self-serving political schemes like Newsom’s initiative will only set us back.
Michele Hanisee is President of the Association of Los Angeles Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA). The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and may not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Association of Deputy District Attorneys (ADDA) which is the collective bargaining agent and represents nearly 1,000 Deputy District Attorneys who work for the County of Los Angeles.