SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) - California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Wednesday harshly criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in the wake of an elementary school shooting that left 19 students and two teachers dead and assailed two federal judges as "extremists" for their rulings undermining California’s gun control efforts.
Shortly before Newsom held a news conference to tout his legislative efforts to strengthen gun laws in California, Abbott spoke about Tuesday’s carnage in Uvalde, Texas, and said the gunman "has to have evil in his heart." Abbott talked about the mental health struggles of many in his state while calling out tough gun laws in California as ineffective.
Newsom, joined by legislative leaders, urged the public to "not give in to the cynicism and all the crap that you heard today at that press conference around evil and mental health."
"That completely belies the fact that there’s only one nation on planet Earth that separates itself from all other nations and that’s the United States of America in the perversion of the Second Amendment" guaranteeing the right to keep and bear arms, Newsom said.
"I wasn’t even going to bring him up. But Governor Abbott just name-checked the state of California. I would caution them from doing that," Newsom said. He noted that the gun mortality rate in Texas is much higher than California, citing statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Newsom said he expects his fellow Democrats who control the Legislature to send him "well over a dozen" gun control bills by the end of June, adding to what already are some of the nation’s toughest restrictions. They include a measure sought by Newsom that would allow people to sue those who traffic in illegal firearms, mimicking a Texas law intended to ban most abortions. That bill cleared the state Senate on Tuesday.
Newsom held out actions in the nation’s most populous state as "an antidote of sorts" to people nationwide who may be feeling "anxiety, stress and fear" over recent gun violence, including the slayings in Texas and at a grocery store in Buffalo, N.Y. earlier this month.
California hasn’t been immune to gun violence, Newsom acknowledged — a May 15 church attack killed a man who helped stop the shooter and an April 3 gunfight left six dead in Sacramento. But Newsom also said mass shootings have prompted the state’s nation-leading gun control efforts.
The state already requires strict waiting periods for gun purchases, background checks for buying both guns and ammunition, and limits assault-style weapons and ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 bullets.
Newsom, as he has in the past, also criticized "extremist" federal judges who have ruled against some of California’s gun laws — Judge Roger Benitez compared assault weapons to Swiss Army knives and Judge Ryan Nelson earlier this month wrote the majority opinion blocking the state’s ban on the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21.
"You can ask Judge Benitez about how he’s feeling about this last 10 days," Newsom said. As for Nelson, "I wonder how he’s feeling right now (after) what happened in Buffalo and what happened in Texas." Both of those shootings were carried out by 18-year-old men using semiautomatic weapons.
Benitez and Nelson both declined comment through spokesmen. Abbott’s office did not immediately comment.
The Firearms Policy Coalition, a pro gun rights group, issued a statement criticizing "anti-rights politicians" who it said are offering "false hope" while having "disgustingly commandeered these tragedies in a rush to enact their agenda of disarmament and authoritarianism." The group did not name any politicians.
Democratic legislative leaders who spoke alongside Newsom at the Capitol promised to speed measures that already were in the works to limit untraceable "ghost" guns, give people the right to sue gun manufacturers and dealers, and add further safeguards on gun sales. Members of the state Assembly, several of them in tears, on Wednesday moved to advance a package of five related bills.
They include one with bipartisan support that would limit the use of pre-made parts that can be used to assemble untraceable ghost guns. It would bar making a firearm without a serial number and require anyone currently possessing such a gun to apply to the state for a serial number by July 1, 2023.
Republican Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares supported the bill but warned that it "will be meaningless" without a comprehensive approach that also includes resources for mental health.