Is Democratic CA senate leader’s ammo-sales bill legal?

de leonLegislative Democrats pushed through a gun-control measure last week that is almost certain to be challenged in court — where it’ll have a tough time surviving — all for the sake of what some claim is a political grudge.

The Legislature passed 11 bills in all, six of which were signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown and the rest vetoed. But one is fraught with peril as it circumvents the Elections Code by amending a November ballot initiative regulating ammo sales. 

The difference between how the bill, sponsored by Senate President Pro Tempore Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, and the ballot measure, sponsored by Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, regulate ammo sales is not substantial. But Democrats have had a hard time providing legal justification for going around Section 9034 (c) in the Elections Code, which says the Legislature does not have the authority to “alter the initiative measure… .”

Republicans tried

Assembly Republicans tried raising the issue just before final passage, but were brushed aside.

“Don’t we have a statutory or Constitutional problem in amending something that hasn’t even become law yet and is proposed to go to the voters for a vote,” asked Assemblyman James Gallagher, R-Plumas Lake.

Assemblyman Kevin Mullin, who was presiding at the time, said the Legislature had the authority under “the initiative process and statute.” The San Mateo Democrat, however, was unable to identify a particular law or statue, offering instead that legislative counsel said it was OK.

Assemblyman Don Wagner tried next.

“I think you’re wrong,” the Irvine Republican told Mullin, citing the Elections Code. Wagner appealed the ruling, saying the Legislature was “trampling the will of the people,” who signed a ballot measure without de León’s amendment, adding that the Legislature was “acting illegally and in violation of the Elections Code.” Assembly Democrats pushed forward and Wagner was overruled.

Attempts to get justification 

According to documents provided by de León’s office, legislative counsel did not review the legality of the measure. Instead, legislative counsel issued an opinion on how the amendment would affect the ballot measure.

No legal justification for the law has been provided to CalWatchdog, although de León’s office pointed to an instance from 1990 when the Legislature amended Prop. 129. The measure failed by a wide margin, however, and CalWatchdog has been unable to find a legal ruling setting precedent.

Language in the measure

Next, de León’s office pointed to a provision in Newsom’s ballot language stating: “The provisions of this measure may be amended by a vote of 55 percent of the members of each house of the Legislature and signed by the Governor so long as such amendments are consistent with and further the intent of this Act.” But it’s unclear if the legislative intent of that passage is referring to before or after the measure becomes law, although that’s likely irrelevant. Until the ballot measure is approved by the voters (if it is approved by voters) it has no force of law.

And if the legislative intent was to allow the legislature to amend the measure’s language prior to a vote of the people, it’s unlikely that Newsom or any other ballot initiative proponent has the power to temporarily rewrite the Elections Code.

Proponents have a period to amend pending initiatives, but that period ended a while ago.

Lack of accountability

The attorney’s general office has not responded to requests for comment. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last week, but his office deferred to de León.

A spokesperson for the ballot initiative said proponents were focused on getting the measure passed and did not say if they would challenge the law.

Newsom/de León fued

In recent weeks, the Newsom/de Leon feud has spilled out into public, with a Newsom spokesman calling the move “sickeningly cynical.”

“Is (de León) someone who truly respects the will of the voters and wants to reduce gun violence or is he merely a self-serving cynic completely consumed with petty personal grudges,” spokesman Dan Newman told The Sacramento Bee

De León has had it out for Newsom for a while over the gun issue. When Newsom announced plans to introduce the measure last year, de León — who’d made background checks for ammo purchases a pet priority — slashed the size of Newsom’s staff.


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  1. Mike
    Mike 5 July, 2016, 18:00

    The govt paid security staffing and the ” equipment ” they carry should be in the public domain for all state of California elected officials that use this protection. It is common sense transparency.
    The info should not be available to white males, but should be posted at every place the peace loving relegion meets, as well as restaurants serving cuisine from El Salvador. In fact, New refugees should have first pass to staff the security details.

    Reply this comment
  2. michael
    michael 5 July, 2016, 18:48

    Of course for Democrats it does not matter if an action is legal or not, pass it and wait for the lawsuit. Don’t worry no accountability and the tax payers will foot the bill regardless

    Reply this comment
  3. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 6 July, 2016, 08:45

    The demacrats are by far the most anti-constitutional party there is Moonbeam and Newsom want to disarm all americans so dose Obama the Fink and Hillary the Hag and Hollyweed wank Matt Damon wants america to fllow the same mistake the aussies made and confiscate all guns(Ecsept for the ones he uses in his putrid movies and carried by his goons)frankly Moonbeam and Newssom need to have their heads examened the pea sized brains

    Reply this comment
  4. jduron
    jduron 6 July, 2016, 10:46

    Tyrants, Dictators and Traitors trying to rule a FREE NATION FEAR Armed Patriots. Mad King George of England found this out the HARD WAY! America KICKED the BRIT’s back to England to become a FREE NATION won through Revolution!
    America the TIME has come again!

    Reply this comment
  5. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 7 July, 2016, 07:05

    The first rule of tyrants is disarm the public then they can be rounded up and sent to concentration camps and gulags it certialy worked for Hitler,Stalin,Mao and Castro

    Reply this comment
  6. SkippingDog
    SkippingDog 7 July, 2016, 10:57

    Why would legislation be superseded by an initiative that has not yet been passed by the electorate. This article makes no sense. It was just another Republican attempt to thwart the legislative will of the people.

    Reply this comment
    • R
      R 18 July, 2016, 12:22

      Of the people? Republican? Are you trying to make Democrat synonymous with violating the constitution? Maybe some progressive liberals, but NOT democrats.

      Reply this comment
  7. Spurwing Plover
    Spurwing Plover 8 July, 2016, 07:09

    The idiot holding the gun in the picture looks like a large bird crapped on his head

    Reply this comment
  8. R
    R 18 July, 2016, 12:20

    Shall not be Infringed-

    actively break the terms of (a law, agreement, etc.).
    “making an unauthorized copy would infringe copyright”
    synonyms: contravene, violate, transgress, break, breach; More
    act so as to limit or undermine (something); encroach on.
    “his legal rights were being infringed”
    synonyms: restrict, limit, curb, check, encroach on;

    Reply this comment

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