CALIFORNIA POLITICS

Opposition campaign launched against Gavin Newsom's gun control initiative

A new campaign opposing Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed ballot initiative to toughen California’s gun laws accuses the Democrat of “shamelessly exploiting” the San Bernardino terrorist attacks to win support for the measure and advance his own campaign for governor.

The California Rifle & Pistol Assn. on Friday morning will suggest in an email campaign that Newsom is trying to take away the constitutional rights of gun owners and render millions of legally purchased firearms useless.

“Former San Francisco Mayor and gubernatorial candidate Gavin Newsom thinks he can become Governor by shamelessly exploiting the San Bernardino attacks and the fear that flowed from those attacks,” the campaign, called the Coalition for More Civil Liberties, says in an email being sent Friday to potential supporters of its effort.

“He has responded by promoting a frightening and self-aggrandizing ballot initiative that bypasses the Legislature and that would, if passed by voters, limit your ability to choose how best to defend yourself,” it adds.

Richard Grenell, spokesman for the opposition campaign, said the effort includes a diverse group of supporters, not just gun rights groups. Among the co-chairs is Los Angeles Deputy Dist. Atty. Michele Hanisee, president of the Assn. of Deputy District Attorneys, and technology executive Chris Cheng.

“Gavin Newsom wants you to believe gun owners are all old white guys. “This is a diverse group,” Grenell said, noting that both he and Cheng are gay. Grenell previously worked as a spokesman for four U.S. ambassadors to the United Nations during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Newsom’s proposed initiative, called the Safety for All Act, would require background checks for ammunition purchases and ban possession of large-capacity magazines.

To qualify for the November ballot, Newsom must get petition signatures from 365,880 registered voters in the state. So far, proponents already have collected 25% of what they need.

The measure would need a simply majority of the vote to be approved.

Cheng, who formerly worked at Google and as a sport shooter was a champion on the History Channel's “Top Shot” program, criticized Newsom's proposal as casting a "broad net that disproportionately impacts law-abiding citizens."

"The Newsom initiative is a terrible idea driven by an anti-gun ideology that will have zero impact on public safety," he said. 

Newsom introduced the measure in October, almost two months before Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik burst into the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino and opened fire, killing 14 people.

Newsom since has mentioned the attack when discussing the rash of mass shootings in the United States and the need for stricter gun laws.

“Because the devastating violence, the mass shootings – none of it will end until we stand up to the NRA and pass gun safety reform for our communities,” Newsom said in an email to supporters days after the attack.

California has some of the toughest firearms laws in the country.

Buying, selling and manufacturing large-capacity magazines is illegal in the state, but possession of them is still allowed. Under Newsom’s measure, owners would be required to sell them to a licensed firearms dealer, take them out of state or turn them over to police. 

California voters continue to support increased gun control measures.

According to a Field Poll released in January, 57% of voters said they believed it was more important to impose greater controls on gun ownership, compared with 38% who said protecting the rights of Americans to own guns was more important.

Field Polls conducted since 1999 found nearly the same result.

phil.willon@latimes.com

Follow @philwillon on Twitter for the latest news on California politics

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