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Gilroy shooter obtained ‘weapons of goddamned mass destruction,’ Newsom says

Gilroy shooting
Police officers escort people from Christmas Hill Park on Sunday night following the shooting.
(Noah Berger / Associated Press)

Revelations that the gunman in the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting used a military-style semiautomatic rifle that is illegal to own in California has fueled a new debate about gun control and how weapons banned here can still be purchased legally elsewhere.

Authorities say that gunman Santino William Legan, 19, bought the weapon earlier this year legally in Nevada and brought it back to Gilroy.

A frustrated Gov. Gavin Newsom said the shooting underscored the need for society to get serious about gun control.

“You can’t put borders up, speaking of borders, to a neighboring state where you can buy this damn stuff legally,” he said Monday, speaking to reporters at the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center. “How in the hell is that possible? I have no problem with the 2nd Amendment, you have a right to bear arms but not weapons of goddamned mass destruction.”

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Newsom condemned the federal government, which he said “just turns a blind eye and won’t do a damn thing to address these issues.”

Most 2020 Democrats support universal background checks, “red flag” laws to take away guns from high-risk individuals, and bringing back a ban on “assault” weapons sale.

“California’s doing its part, but Jesus, these guys, the folks in the White House have been supporting the kinds of policies that roll back the work that we’re doing in states like ours to get rid of large-capacity magazines, to address the issues that we’re trying to advance on background checks,” he said.

“And we could only do it for our state. We have to fight in the courts and fight these organized National Rifle Assn., but then you have an entire party it seems, completely bankrupt, no capacity. And don’t claim to be compassionate if you’re participating complicitly in the world you’re living in. Society becomes how we behave. The lack of resolve, it’s just an outrage.”

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Authorities initially said the weapon used in the Gilroy attack was the WASR-10, a Romanian-built weapon that looks like an AK-47 and is considered an assault rifle under California law and, therefore, banned.

However, Monday evening, they corrected that statement and said the rifle the gunman used was an “AK-47 variant,” modeled after the original Russian weapon. A federal weapons expert was not familiar with the company that manufactured the rifle, said San Jose Fire Department spokesman Mitch Matlow.

Newsom visited with survivors and the families of victims, including the grandmother of the 6-year-old boy who was killed, at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center on Monday morning, his office said.

“Nothing I can say can change what happened,” Newsom said when asked about the conversations. “ ‘I don’t know what I could possibly say to make you feel better except, God bless you and I’m so sorry. I don’t get what happened to you and what’s happening in this country. We’re here for you.’ ”

“You know I’ve been doing this 20 years and it’s just sickening,” Newsom said.


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