Just days before the Legislature is scheduled to act on a package of gun control measures, California election officials announced Thursday that an initiative by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom to restrict firearms has enough signatures to qualify for the November state ballot.
The Secretary of State's Office said a verification process using random samples estimated that at least 402,468 of the 600,000 signatures turned in were valid and from registered voters, so the initiative has officially qualified to be on the ballot.
"Enough massacres, death, tears, and hate — it's time to take action and save lives," Newsom said in a statement Thursday. "The Safety for All initiative gives California voters the opportunity to keep guns and ammo out of the hands of violent, dangerous, hateful people. America has too many guns and too much hate. The result is the massacre in Orlando, and dozens of other gun deaths every single day."
Opponents including Chuck Michel, co-chair for the Coalition for Civil Liberties, plan to campaign against the initiative.
"Californians believe in more civil liberties, not fewer freedoms," Michel said. "Gavin Newsom's political maneuver will be defeated because it does nothing to stop the next ISIS-inspired attack. We need politicians who aren't manipulators but who thoughtfully look for ways to truly make us safer."
The initiative would require background checks for bullet buyers, a ban on possessing ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, a mandate for felony charges for gun thefts and a strict process for getting guns out of the hands of felons and others disqualified from possessing firearms.
Many similar proposals are included in legislation proposed by lawmakers who hoped to avoid the issue going to the voters.
State law allows initiative proponents to drop their proposals if they are satisfied that the same goals are accomplished by legislation.
State Sen. Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) said Thursday that Newsom should drop his initiative if the bills are approved next week.
"If we pass the bills, there is no need to confuse the voters with an initiative," Hill said.
But Newsom, who is a candidate for governor in 2018, said his initiative goes further so he has no plans to sideline the measure, even if some bills are signed into law.
"The initiative makes reforms the Legislature has failed to enact, as well as others the Legislature isn't even considering, and others that they simply don't have the authority to legally address," Newsom wrote recently to Senate leader Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles).
De León, in turn, has said the initiative might give cover to some legislators to withhold their vote from gun bills and leave the decision to the voters. He recently called Newsom's initiative a "risky all-or-nothing strategy that endangers the potential for enacting strong measures this year that will surely save lives."
De León was in Paris on Thursday for the weekend wedding of former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez and was not available for direct comment on the initiative qualifying.
California voters support many of the proposals in the initiative, according to The Field Poll, which conducted a survey in January, a month after a terrorist shooting in San Bernardino left 14 dead.
The poll found requiring those buying ammunition to undergo background checks was favored by 80% of voters and outlawing large-capacity magazines was supported by 58%.
Since then, a gunman killed 49 people at an Orlando nightclub and Congress has remained gridlocked over gun control even after a sit-in by Democratic U.S. House members.
Newsom formed a campaign committee to qualify the initiative and win its passage. So far the committee has raised more than $2 million, including some $700,000 this year from Newsom's political accounts and more than $600,000 from the California Democratic Party.