Sen. de Leon backs racial profiling of ammo sales

Sen. de Leon backs racial profiling of ammo sales

Bullets - wikipediaJuly 12, 2013

By John Hrabe

A state lawmaker who has co-authored legislation to track ammunition sales believes law enforcement officials need more information to “profile” sales to anyone who isn’t a white male over the age of 50.

During a July 2 committee hearing, state Senator Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, urged his colleagues on the Senate Public Safety Committee to support Assembly Bill 48, which would track large ammunition sales in California. The bill would require the state Department of Justice to alert local law enforcement agencies of any ammunition sales exceeding 3,000 rounds within a 5-day period.

De Leon, a co-author of the bill, says the legislation is needed to highlight purchases by those who “don’t fit a certain profile,” a word he said they chose “carefully.” In explanation of the bill, he said:

“What it does is in a place like Richmond, what does like in a place like Oakland or Los Angeles, if there are individuals purchasing large quantities, and perhaps, they don’t fit a certain profile. Now, I will use the word profile, cause I’m using my words very carefully.”

De Leon goes on to describe his profile of the typical purchaser of large quantities of ammunition in Los Angeles, including a description of the buyer’s race, age and gender.

“In Los Angeles, a profile of an individual who purchases large quantities, according to a Rand Institute study, is a white male over the age of 50. That is the profile.”

Then, he described an individual who would not, in his view, fit the profile, and thus, is deserving of greater scrutiny from law enforcement.

“If you have a young woman who is in her mid-20s or late 20s, who’s purchasing large quantities on a weekly basis, quite consistently, good detective work says, ‘Hmm. This is quite interesting. Cause it doesn’t fit the pattern that we’ve seen historically. Therefore, let’s scratch the surface a little deeper and let’s see where this leads us to. Is the large purchase or quantity — is this a straw buyer? Are they going out to the black market, where they are selling it in the streets in Oakland and Richmond and elsewhere?'”

ACLU definition of racial profiling

De Leon’s statements supporting the use of race as a factor in law enforcement decisions would constitute a form of racial profiling, according to civil rights advocates. On its website, the American Civil Liberties Union states that racial profiling “refers to the discriminatory practice by law enforcement officials of targeting individuals for suspicion of crime based on the individual’s race, ethnicity, religion or national origin.”

The group adds that racial profiling can include instances in which race is one of several factors and is not the sole basis for its decisions.

“Defining racial profiling as relying ‘solely’ on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion can be problematic,” the ACLU writes on its information page. “This definition found in some state racial profiling laws is unacceptable, because it fails to include when police act on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin or religion in combination with an alleged violation of all law.”

De Leon’s office denies statement supports racial profiling

De Leon’s office denies that the Senator’s statement constitutes support for racial profiling.

“His reference to race had to do with the legitimate purchase of ammunition by white males over age 50,” said Greg Hayes, de Leon’s communications director. “There is no law enforcement targeting in that statement nor is it a reference to ‘suspicion of crime.’”

He added, “It is simply inaccurate to say he made a reference to racial profiling.”

However, the ACLU includes in its definition of racial profiling cases of “omissions on the part of law enforcement” based on race. “Any definition of racial profiling must include, in addition to racially or ethnically discriminatory acts, discriminatory omissions on the part of law enforcement as well,” the ACLU states. De Leon said that white males over the age of 50 deserved less scrutiny than a woman in her twenties from Oakland or Richmond.

CA GOP official criticizes de Leon’s comments

Harmeet Dhillon, a civil rights attorney and vice-chair of the California Republican Party, denounced de Leon’s statements.

“Kevin de Leon’s troubling endorsement of the concept of racial profiling of ammunition buyers who are not older white men is not only bad public policy, but it also flies in the face of long standing and still valid civil rights laws enjoyed in our nation,” said Dhillon, who frequently represents victims of racial profiling and discrimination.

Dhillon also pointed out that de Leon’s comments contradicted statements by prominent Democratic leaders, including former President Bill Clinton. In 1999, Clinton described racial profiling as a “morally indefensible, deeply corrosive practice.”

“We must stop the morally indefensible, deeply corrosive practice of racial profiling,” Clinton told a Justice Department conference, according to the Chicago Tribune. “It is wrong, it is destructive, and it must stop.”

Dhillon hopes that the state senator will study up on his civil rights history.

“Perhaps Sen. de Leon should study some civil rights history before proposing blatantly illegal, discriminatory and ineffective means for accomplishing what is, at the end, a wholly illegitimate goal – suppression of Americans’ right to own and use firearms as protected by the Second Amendment,” she said.

De Leon’s support for racial profiling appears to have persuaded his colleagues on the Public Safety committee, which passed the bill on a 5-1 vote. A You Tube video, posted on July 4, first brought the Senator’s comments to light. The entire committee hearing on AB 48 is available at

Here’s the YouTube of de Leon’s remarks:

Tags assigned to this article:
AB 48ACLUBulletsKevin de Leon

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