Do you know how your State Senator and Assembly Member voted on the five gun safety bills that were introduced in the legislature this year? There are several reasons why you might not know how they voted. The process is arcane and can be difficult to track. Just the number of bills introduced every year is overwhelming.
California has a two-year cycle for legislation. Odd-numbered years are the first year of each two-year session. In those two-year cycles, a lot of legislation is introduced. Since the 2009–2010 session, the legislature has introduced about 5,000 bills in each two-year session.7
Sept. 14 was the last day for each house to pass bills in the first year of this two-year session. Gov. Gavin Newsom has 30 days to sign or veto bills passed by the legislature on or before Sept. 14.
Of the 5,000 bills introduced in each two-year cycle, fewer than half pass both houses, are signed by the governor and become law.7 Most bills that become law go into effect on Jan. 1 of the following year. Two websites help voters navigate the legislative system: Vote Smart (justfacts.votesmart.org) and LegiScan (legiscan.com/).
In the 1980s, California had the highest rate of gun deaths in the country.1 California now has one of the lowest rates of gun deaths in the country (44th out of the 50 states).2 Since 1990, the majority of California legislators have embraced sensible gun safety legislation and have effectively lowered the rate of gun violence in the state.1
Legislators from the San Joaquin Valley, though, have not been strong participants in that legislative effort. Rarely have any Republicans in the Assembly or the Senate voted for any of the gun safety measures that have been introduced in the past 15 years.3 But, at best, San Joaquin Valley Democratic legislators have been only tepid supporters of gun safety laws.3
The table below shows the votes on gun safety bills for the 2023 session by San Joaquin Valley representatives whose districts include some portions of Fresno County.
|Representative||SB 2||SB 241||SB 452||AB 1089||AB 28|
SB 2 would revise concealed carry law to conform to the Supreme Court’s recent decision in the Bruen case.14 The bill identifies statewide eligibility standards (e.g., training, not at risk of harming self/others) rather than perceived need for an individual to receive a concealed weapons license.
SB 241 prevents illegal sales of guns, reduces the likelihood of straw man purchases, and decreases sales to people who seem to be a risk to others or themselves. All legitimate gun dealers would need a federal firearms license. SB 241 would require that legitimate firearm retailers and their employees complete regular training created and overseen by the state’s Department of Justice.16
SB 452 “would prohibit, commencing on January 1, 2028, a licensed firearms dealer from selling, offering for sale, exchanging, giving, transferring or delivering a semiautomatic pistol, as defined, unless the pistol has been verified as a microstamping-enabled pistol.”17 All new semiautomatic handguns (whether a new or older model) sold in California will be required to have microstamping technology, which imprints a unique code onto a bullet casing when a gun is fired. That code allows law enforcement to trace a bullet to a specific firearm.
AB 1089 would close a loophole by limiting unauthorized ghost gun manufacturers from using 3D printers and milling machines. Ghost guns have no identification numbers that can be used to trace ownership. Ghost guns are increasingly being used in the commission of crimes.19
AB 28 would place an 11% excise tax on firearms and ammunition. It would establish the Gun Violence Prevention, Healing and Recovery Fund, which would help California comprehensively respond to the public health, safety and equity crisis of gun violence. The excise tax would help fund community violence interruption and prevention programs (such as Advance Peace in Fresno), protect and heal survivors, and improve the implementation and coordination of gun violence prevention throughout the state. It required a two-thirds vote to pass because it is a tax.
The Assembly Members whose districts include part of Fresno County are as follows:4,5,6
- District 8: Jim Patterson (R–Fresno), includes all or part of Calaveras, Fresno, Inyo, Madera, Mariposa, Mono and Tuolumne counties
- District 27: Esmeralda Soria (D–Fresno), includes part of Fresno, Madera and Merced counties
- District 31: Joaquin Arambula (D–Fresno), wholly within Fresno County
- District 33: Devon Mathis (R–Tulare), includes part of Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties
The State Senators whose districts include part of Fresno County are as follows:4,5,6
- District 12: Shannon Grove (R–Bakersfield), includes part of Fresno, Kern and Tulare counties
- District 14: Anna M. Caballero (D–Merced), includes part of Fresno, Madera, Merced and Tulare counties
- District 16: Melissa Hurtado (D–Bakersfield), includes part of Fresno, Kern, Kings and Tulare counties
Brady California and the local Brady chapter, Enough Gun Violence/Brady Greater Fresno, supported all five of the gun safety bills introduced thus far in the 2023–2024 legislative session. Those bills will help make California’s communities safer from gun violence.
Brady United Against Gun Violence, which Brady California is part of, is the nation’s oldest gun violence prevention advocacy group. Brady California is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization “committed to educating and mobilizing our communities to advocate for sensible and responsible gun laws, regulations and public policies in cities across the state, in Sacramento and in Washington.”
Republican lawmakers have become “Second Amendment Absolutists.” Patterson has been in Sacramento since 2013 and has not voted for a single gun safety law in that time.8 Since coming to Sacramento in 2016, Mathis has voted “No” on all 26 gun safety bills introduced to the legislature.9 Grove has been in Sacramento since 2011. She has voted for only one of the 44 gun safety laws that have been introduced in her tenure.10 This year was no different for the Republican legislators. All the Republicans in the Assembly and the Senate voted against all the gun safety measures introduced in 2023.
- Arambula was elected to the Assembly in a 2016 special election. From then until January 2023, 25 gun safety bills were introduced. He voted “Nay” on six of them and did not vote on five of them. He voted “Yea” on 14 of the 25 gun safety bills.11
- Caballero first came to Sacramento in 2007. She has served in both the Senate and the Assembly. She has had the opportunity to vote on 28 gun safety bills. She voted “Yea” on 17 of those, did not vote six times and voted “Nay” five times.12
- Hurtado came to Sacramento in 2017. From 2017 until January 2023, 21 gun safety bills were introduced. She voted “Yea” for 13 of them, did not vote on four and voted “Nay” on four.13
- Soria’s first opportunity to vote on gun safety legislation came in the 2023 session.
Hesitancy on the part of the Democratic legislators might be due to concern that they could antagonize voters and not get reelected if they vote for gun safety laws. There is no evidence that voting for gun safety laws would prevent Democratic legislators from getting reelected.
The Democratic legislators from the San Joaquin Valley could take a more aggressive approach toward improving gun safety in California. Most likely, those people that voted for those Democratic legislators would continue to vote for them. Those people that voted against them would continue to vote against them regardless of their votes on gun safety.
James Mendez came to Fresno in 1977 for his medical residency training at what was then called the Valley Medical Center. He stayed to practice medicine and raise a family. He is now a retired physician and a community activist.
- https://ca.bradyunited.org/ Impact of gun safety legislation on gun violence in California
- https://wisevoter.com/state-rankings/gun-deaths-per-capita-by-state/#:~:text= Mississippi has the most gun deaths at 25.9 per 100,000 people; California’s ranking in terms of gun deaths per 100K
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/bills/CA/1/37/ Voting history of legislators on different issues, including gun safety
- https://ballotpedia.org/California_State_Assembly Map of districts
- https://www.senate.ca.gov/sites/senate.ca.gov/files/2023-24_senate_counties_represented_fz.pdf Which Senate districts cover which counties and the names of the senators
- https://www.assembly.ca.gov/assemblymembers Which Assembly districts cover which counties and the names of the Assembly members
- https://legiscan.com/CA Number of bills introduced in each two-year session
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/28881/jim-patterson/37/guns?p=2 Assembly Member Jim Patterson’s voting history on gun issues
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/151908/devon-mathis/37/guns?p=2 Assembly Member Devon Mathis’s voting history on gun issues
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/120204/shannon-grove/37/guns?p=2 State Senator Shannon Grove’s voting history on gun issues
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/169272/joaquin-arambula/37/guns Assembly Member Joaquin Arambula’s voting history on gun issues
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/58583/anna-caballero/37/guns State Senator Anna Caballero’s voting history on gun issues
- https://justfacts.votesmart.org/candidate/key-votes/179956/melissa-hurtado/37/guns State Senator Melissa Hurtado’s voting history on gun issues
- https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billnavclient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240sb2 Text of SB 2
- https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240SB241 Text of SB 241
- https://legiscan.com/CA/rollcall/SB241/id/1353502 Roll call vote on SB 241
- https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billnavclient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240sb452 Text of SB 452
- https://legiscan.com/CA/rollcall/SB452/id/1332610 Roll call vote results on SB 452
- https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billnavclient.xhtml?bill_id=202320240 Text of AB 1089
- https://legiscan.com/CA/rollcall/AB1089/id/1353387 State Senate roll call vote on AB 1089
21. https://legiscan.com/CA/rollcall/AB1089/id/1353316 State Assembly roll call vote on AB 1089