Governor, Californians split on gun legislation

SACRAMENTO — Lots of gun rumblings. The blood keeps spilling. And the carnage spreads.

Start with the LAX shootings.

The gun used by the government-hater to kill a checkpoint screener and wound three others? It was the type of firearm that would have been banned from the California market under legislation vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Not that it would have mattered for Gerardo Hernandez, 39, the TSA agent who was murdered. The bill would not have taken effect until Jan. 1. And Paul Anthony Ciancia, 23, the disgruntled, alleged assassin, could have kept his semiautomatic rifle by registering it.


And, yes, he also could have armed himself with a handgun and probably inflicted the same damage.

But presumably he chose the Smith & Wesson M&P 15, .223-caliber semiautomatic — hauling with him five loaded detachable magazines and a trove of ammunition — because he had in mind creating even more mayhem.

Such military-style assault rifles, after all, are the weapons of choice for mass killers. Ciancia was stopped only when critically wounded by LAX police.

SB 374, by Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), would have banned the sale of most semiautomatic rifles capable of accepting detachable magazines. The aim was to close a loophole used by gun manufacturers to circumvent California’s ban on assault weapons.

Because of Brown’s veto, these especially lethal firearms are still available for purchase in California. And they’ll continue to be used by wackos in horrific shootings.

Incidentally, this apparently was another example of a “law-abiding” citizen going berserk with his firearm — further punching holes in the gun worshipers’ argument that all gun control does is harass law-abiding citizens.

Problem is, too many citizens are law-abiding until they aren’t anymore. And at that point, they shouldn’t be slinking around with a high-capacity, semiautomatic. Like Ciancia was.

In his veto message, Brown said, “I don’t believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semiautomatic rifles” — an erroneous characterization — “would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights.”

But the governor seems out of sync with California on gun control, according to polling.

A new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll found that only 28% of registered voters approve of Brown’s gun policies; 41% disapprove and the rest aren’t sure.

Those interviewed, however, weren’t asked their views on gun regulations. So it’s impossible to tell from those numbers whether voters think the governor is too hard or too soft on guns. He played both sides last month, signing several gun bills and vetoing others.

But to understand Californians’ views, we can look at a March survey by the same pollsters. In that survey, by 51% to 37%, voters thought it was more important “to protect people from gun violence” than to protect “the right to own guns.”

Specifically, by 62% to 33%, voters favored a nationwide ban on assault weapon sales — a position seemingly counter to Brown’s veto of legislation to close the assault weapons loophole in California.

Nevertheless, some Republicans and gun lobbyists have targeted five Democratic legislators for recall because they voted for the loophole closure and other firearms regulations.

And what’s that all about, besides a waste of taxpayer and political money? Each of the lawmakers must stand for reelection next year or is termed out anyway. And the exercise will be largely futile. One target, Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), not only is termed out, he won reelection last year with 83% of the vote.

“It’s just to tick him off, send a message that people throughout California are upset about [legislative infringement] on 2nd Amendment rights,” said Sam Paredes, head of Gun Owners of California.

The Republicans involved obviously are politically tone deaf. In all, 65 legislators — many of them Anglos — voted for the Steinberg bill. And whom do the Republicans attack? Five Latinos, representing California’s political future and a demographic group that GOP demagogues can’t resist alienating.

I suspect it’s largely a strategy by the GOP recall leader, Assemblyman Tim Donnelly of Twin Peaks, to attract some attention to his just-announced campaign for governor against Brown.

And right here seems a good place to remind readers that Donnelly was nabbed by airport screeners with a loaded .45-caliber handgun in his carry-on luggage. He pleaded no contest, was fined and placed on three years’ probation.

Rounding out this scattergun piece, there was that recent BB-gun tragedy in Santa Rosa. Even play guns can cause death.

Andy Lopez, a bright, popular 13-year-old, was walking along a road carrying a plastic BB gun that looked like an AK-47 assault rifle.

The eighth-grader was stopped by two sheriff’s deputies and ordered twice to drop the gun. When Andy began to turn around, still holding the plastic weapon — its barrel rising — veteran Officer Erick Gelhaus fired eight rounds, killing the boy.

Gelhaus is a firearms instructor and Iraq veteran. Not even this expert could tell the difference between an assault rifle and a plastic BB gun.

So why are we permitting such AK-47 replicas to be sold?

Legislation was sponsored two years ago, at the request of LAPD Chief Charlie Beck, to require that BB guns be painted bright colors. The gun lobby fought it, contending that BBs also are dangerous and should be treated like real weapons. The bill died.

The core of the gun lobby’s argument — whether the assault weapons are real or replicas — is that guns already are over-regulated. No amount of laws will ever stop killings.

Nonsense. They can be reduced. That’s like saying death is inevitable so why get doctors checkups.

Try arguing inevitability to the families of Gerardo Hernandez and Andy Lopez.