Citing the failure of the state Legislature to act, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom said Thursday that he has collected 600,000 signatures of California voters, more than enough to qualify a gun control initiative for the November ballot.
"We're there. This is going to be on the November ballot," Newsom said Thursday. "Over 600,000 registered voters want to take some bold action on gun safety."
Newsom's campaign plans to begin delivering signatures tomorrow to county clerks for verification. If at least 365,880 signatures are found to be valid, the measure qualifies for the ballot.
Newsom said most of the proposals in the initiative "have one thing in common, that over the past number of years they have suffered the fate of either being watered down or rejected by the Legislature. We're hopeful and confident that the voters of California will overwhelmingly support the initiative."
The broad measure would require background checks for purchasers of ammunition, ban possession of ammunition magazine clips holding more than 10 rounds, provide a process for felons and other disqualified persons to relinquish firearms and require owners to report when their guns are lost or stolen.
The initiative would also address an issue caused by the previous adoption of Proposition 47, which made thefts of guns worth under $1,000 a misdemeanor. The ballot measure would make all gun thefts a felony.
Last week, Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) said key provisions of the initiative, including the ban on large capacity magazines, are addressed by legislation this year, but that bills could be harmed by the initiative going forward.
A campaign committee including gun groups and law enforcement is being formed to defeat the initiative, according to one member, Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California. He noted that the measure has already been opposed by the California State Sheriffs' Assn., which said it would put restrictions on law-abiding people without taking guns from criminals.
"it's an initiative that carries multiple proposals that were either killed by the Legislature as not workable or vetoed by the governor," Paredes said. "Newsom has collected failed policy issues from the Legislature and put them up as an initiative. Its going to be a massive effort to defeat him."
Paredes said the initiative is a cynical attempt by Newsom to gain higher office.
"We know he's doing this to pump himself up for his gubernatorial run," Paredes said.
Newsom said his campaign for governor is secondary to his current effort to enact gun safety laws.
He said he has been active in the gun safety movement going back 15 years when he was mayor of San Francisco and a founding member of the group Mayors Against Guns. The NRA was so upset, they protested at his wedding in Montana, he said.
"I expect a good challenge from them," Newsom said of the NRA. "They have been very aggressive to date. But we are very enthusiastic to be getting to this next phase."
He cited internal polls indicating more than 70% of California voters support the initiative and a Field Poll that found greater support for provisions of the measure, including the ban on high capacity ammunition magazines.
The measure is also opposed by Chuck Michel, co-chair of the new Coalition for Civil Liberties. "Politicians like Newsom need to concentrate on stopping criminals and terrorists, not law-abiding citizens exercising their rights," Michel said in a statement.