Gov. Gavin Newsom and Democratic lawmakers are launching a new effort to restrict who can carry concealed loaded guns — and where — as fresh polling data show that California voters have their backs.
Twice as many likely voters think it’s more important to control gun ownership than it is to protect gun rights, according to a survey released Wednesday by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.
That partially explains why gun control bills are proliferating in the new Legislature — some of them good, some goofy.
The concealed weapons bill is the biggie — the only one with Newsom seemingly guaranteeing passage — and it’s good. California essentially has been without enforceable criteria for concealed carrying of firearms since last summer.
That’s because the U.S. Supreme Court tossed out New York’s concealed carry law that was similar to California’s. And the Legislature has failed to pass a replacement.
But crafting a new law will be tricky. It ultimately must pass constitutional muster as interpreted by the conservative U.S. Supreme Court that was shaped by former President Trump.
“We want this to withstand the legal challenge that’s sure to come. … The strongest bill possible but also constitutionally sound,” state Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), the bill’s author, said at a news conference Wednesday with Newsom and a stage full of other gun control supporters.
In the poll, those surveyed were asked what they thought was “more important — protecting the right of Americans to own guns, or controlling gun ownership.”
Likely voters favored gun control overwhelmingly, by 66% to 34%.
Every demographic group agreed strongly except Republicans, 78% of whom favored gun rights. Among Democrats, 87% thought gun control was more important.
Voters in the largely rural Central Valley were more closely divided, opting for gun control by only 51% to 48%. But in urban Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, a lopsided 74% of voters wanted gun control.
One significant finding was that support for gun regulation has greatly increased in the last decade, according to PPIC polling. In 2013, voters were split almost evenly — 49% thought gun control was more important and 48% favored gun rights.
“There have been so many incidents where people have witnessed terrible tragedies, so many mass shootings,” says PPIC Survey Director Mark Baldassare. “The growing consensus is we’re not doing enough — even in California, where we’re doing a lot.”
The problem for gun control advocates, as I’ve previously written, is that public support for regulation is broad but thin — not as deep-rooted and intense as among gun rights folks, who tend to be single-issue voters.
But Newsom is very intense about gun regulation — at least rhetorically — and showed that again Wednesday.
“Only in America do we see the kind of carnage and chaos of gun violence that destroys our communities and our sense of safety and belonging,” the governor said in a statement released at the news conference.
“America is No. 1 in gun ownership and we far surpass every developed nation on Earth in gun deaths. It’s not complicated. In California, we’ve passed common sense gun safety laws and they work. We have a 37% lower gun death rate than the national average.
“We’re doubling down on gun safety and strengthening our public carry law to protect it from radical Republican attacks.”
The Democratic governor could have done without the unnecessary partisan swipe, but that’s unfortunately today’s politics played by both parties. Newsom was answering a similar blast from Assembly Republicans two hours earlier.
“Gov. Newsom is sticking with his MO of deflecting blame for his record on crime [by announcing] yet another piece of gun legislation,” the GOP declared in a statement.
“Another set of restrictions on top of California’s 100-plus existing gun laws is not going to make a dent in the wave of violent crime washing over our state. Enforcing our existing laws will. But that’s not as exciting to Democrat primary voters.”
So, there won’t be any bipartisan compromise on this bill. But there won’t need to be. With their supermajority, Democrats can pass any measure they want.
They failed in August, however, to pass a similar bill on the last night of the legislative session during an ugly spate of vengeful politics.
Then-Assemblyman Patrick O’Donnell (D-Long Beach), who normally supported gun controls, had a running feud with Portantino and refused to vote for his measure. It fell one vote short of the needed two-thirds majority.
But O’Donnell has left the Legislature. And Portantino has lowered the vote requirement to a simple majority by removing a so-called urgency clause that would have implemented the bill immediately upon being signed by the governor.
Newsom is very confident that the bill will pass.
“Last year we fell a little short,” he said at the news conference. “That’s not going to happen this year. No question about that. We’re here with absolute expectations and confidence. I will be signing this legislation.”
The bill would ban concealable weapons in places such as government buildings, schools, medical facilities, churches, bars, playgrounds and athletic fields.
“You don’t need a gun to watch your daughter’s soccer game,” Portantino said.
But because of the court ruling, you’d no longer be required to prove a “special need” to obtain a concealed-carry permit. There would be standard — not subjective — criteria for everyone.
There’ll be some massaging, but whatever passes is bound to hit the mark with most voters.