An anonymous letter writer threatened last month to kill state Sen. Marian Bergeson if she supported legislation that would ban semiautomatic assault rifles, Bergeson said Wednesday.
The Newport Beach Republican, who voted Monday in committee for a bill to ban the weapons, said the threatening letter was postmarked Feb. 11 in Santa Ana and had a return address that read simply, “Huntington Beach, America.”
Bergeson declined to quote from the letter but said the writer threatened to kill her if she voted to ban the guns.
“They said they’d blow up my house,” Bergeson added.
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Bergeson said she forwarded the letter, which was received at her office here, to the state Justice Department.
At least one other lawmaker, Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino), has reported receiving a similar threat. Another, Sen. John Doolittle (R-Rocklin), a staunch defender of gun-owners’ rights, has received what law enforcement authorities regarded as a threatening letter from an apparent supporter of gun control, a Doolittle spokesman said Wednesday.
Senate leader David A. Roberti (D-Los Angeles), author of a bill to outlaw the weapons, has received “crank calls” on the gun control issue, according to Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Tony Beard.
Beard also confirmed that the Senate has increased security measures for its committee hearings and floor sessions since attention was focused on the gun issue.
At a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee last week, Senate staff members inspected briefcases of spectators and witnesses, blocked doors normally used by the public and allowed entry into the room through only one door, which was equipped with metal detectors. Access to the Senate floor will also be restricted today when the full Senate is scheduled to consider the gun bill, Beard said.
“We’re taking precautions because this is an issue that people react emotionally to, and we’re acting at the direction of the Rules Committee,” Beard explained.
Assembly Sergeant-at-Arms Charles Bell could not be reached for comment.
Bergeson blamed the National Rifle Assn., which is fighting the proposed ban on semiautomatics, for using “intimidating tactics” that might have prompted the letter writer to threaten her life.
“With the emotionalism they have stirred up as a result of the fervor with which they are opposing this measure, I think you bring all sorts of emotions to the surface,” she said.
But Pam Pryor, an NRA spokeswoman, denied that the organization had done anything to prompt the death threats. She said the gun owners’ group would “never condone” such an action.
“If urging people to call and write their legislators is considered threatening nowadays, that’s all we’ve done,” she said. “We have not been hysterical. We have tried to be reasoned. I think the hysteria has been on the other side.”
Bergeson, who said she has supported gun-owners’ rights in the past, indicated that she sees the proposed ban on assault rifles as a “law-and-order issue.”
“I think it’s been misconstrued by people who think we are trying to take hunting rifles away,” she said. “We are trying to prevent gang members and drug dealers from using these guns to indiscriminately slaughter children in our streets.”