Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Donnelly is standing by his comparison of President Obama's gun control policies to those of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong Il and other dictators, saying that government encroachment on citizens' rights amounted to tyranny.
"Tyranny is the daily purpose of dictators, and I will not apologize for pointing out that our current president acts more like a dictator than a leader of a free people in a Constitutional Republic," Donnelly said Tuesday in an emailed statement.
The assemblyman from San Bernardino County was reacting to criticism of a tweet he posted that included an image with two rows of portraits. The first one showed George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and others who Donnelly said "stood for gun rights." The second had Obama alongside Hitler, Stalin and King George III as people who "stood for gun control."
Democrats called the comparison "despicable."
"More than anything, [it] shows the degree to which this Republican gubernatorial candidate lives in an alternate universe populated by right-wing tea party delusions," said Tenoch Flores, spokesman for the California Democratic Party.
Donnelly's campaign manager shot back that Americans are increasingly concerned about Obama's gun control proposals and the California laws signed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.
"Pointing this out isn't offensive, it's history," said the manager, Jennifer Kerns.
Donnelly has made expansion of gun rights a central part of his platform, aligning himself with advocates who view gun regulations as dangerous government overreach. He has criticized Neel Kashkari, another Republican gubernatorial candidate, for not sharing his views.
In a recent fundraising appeal, Donnelly said Kashkari "wants to trample your rights and seize your guns."
Kashkari is a gun owner who has said that a background check and waiting period when purchasing firearms did not bother him.
Although firearms have been a core issue for Donnelly, they've also gotten him into trouble. He was placed on probation for three years after taking a handgun to an airport in January 2012; Donnelly said he had accidentally left it in his briefcase. The handgun was not registered to him.
Donnelly said "he never got around" to registering it and has refused to answer additional questions about his purchase of the weapon.