Like it or not, it’s a fact that California has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country – so much so that many of the national gun control advocates look to California as the model. In stark contrast, I am one of a growing collection of young, professional women who don’t look fondly on those gun control measures because they inhibit our ability to protect ourselves in the manner we choose.
Since most of what the national gun control lobby is asking for is already law here in California, one has to wonder how many of the new volley of proposed laws in the State Legislature amount to nothing more than political grandstanding. Ironically, in falling all over one another to get in front of the cameras, these bills’ authors may be inadvertently putting the newer members of their caucuses in unintended jeopardy for 2014.
These new gun control bills have been proposed by Democrats that occupy the far-left of the party’s ideological spectrum. Some of the most egregious of these bills include taxing ammunition (the “bullet tax” which was so off-target that the Los Angeles Times felt compelled to editorialize against it), and banning lead bullets which not only raises costs, but requires a shift to less-stable metals. Those represent just a small sample of what is currently proposed in the State Legislature, causing a number of Democrats and Republicans alike to urge caution.
Longtime Democratic Congressman Mike Thompson, for example, is leading the gun control push at the federal level, but is concerned that proponents at the state level in the words of Donald Rumsfeld just may not know what they don’t know. In an interview with Thompson in the Los Angeles Times last week, George Skelton noted “he’s concerned that California – unlike Washington D.C. – may be ‘overreaching on gun laws.’” Thompson was further quoted saying, “I just hope State legislators talk to people who know guns.”
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that California legislators such as Roger Dickinson, Richard Pan, Anthony Rendon, Mark DeSaulnier or Mark Leno probably have not had a substantive, fact-based conversation with many gun owners, manufacturers or hunters. I also imagine that they have not spoken to their fellow Democratic legislators currently occupying moderate swing districts – districts with considerable numbers of constituents who own firearms and who may be less than enthusiastic about the legislature’s efforts to raise taxes and costs on what many see as necessary self-protection or a way of life. Increasingly, with budget crises abounding and affecting local law enforcement budgets up and down the state, some constituents no longer feel they can solely count on law enforcement to protect them; those constituencies include women, members of ethnic minorities and urban residents, many of whom who reside in swing districts.
National Tax Limitation Committee President Lew Uhler made precisely that connection recently when he said, “Voters are not fooled by these ‘boutique taxes.’ They know that if you tax sport shooters today, next week it could be fishing lures or bicycles. Everybody eventually pays, and that goes double for freshmen legislators who foolishly vote for these taxes.”
Furthermore, this is as much an economic issue as it is anything else. Companies in California that manufacture, distribute and sell guns, ammunition and hunting equipment employ nearly 11,000 people and generate an additional 13,500 jobs in supplier and related industries according to the National Sports Shooting Foundation 2012 economic data. On average these jobs pay $50,000, yet some in the legislature want to make it harder for these companies to conduct business in California, and to make products more expensive for their customer base. With a State economy still in recovery, this looks less and less like the hill that politically-savvy politicians may want to charge.
Certainly in the upcoming 2014 non-presidential year elections, these bills have to be a major concern to California Democrats. After all, their party has just gained a super-majority and must now hold numerous swing districts. They’d be wise not to overreach or shoot from the hip. After all, like New York, California has already tackled most of the key issues which a recent USC/LA Times survey showed Californians support – background checks and a ban on so-called “assault weapons.”
Perhaps California Democrats will listen to Congressman Thompson and learn a lesson from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose poll numbers plummeted after he pushed what many perceived as grandstanding on the gun issue. Either way, the 2014 California legislative elections are on target to be a wild ride.