Sonoma County voices weigh in on Newsom’s proposed gun control amendment
When Dr. Mark Shapiro heard Thursday about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s new proposal to amend the U.S. Constitution and enshrine into law a host of gun control measures, he had what turned out to be a fairly common reaction.
“Is this the right solution?” Shapiro, a Santa Rosa physician and host of the podcast series Explore the Space, said in the early afternoon. “Look, I’m three hours into this like a lot of people are.”
Newsom’s proposed 28th Amendment would make universal background checks the law of the land, raise the minimum age to buy a firearm to 21 and ban sales of assault rifles to civilians. It would also give states and local governments the right to pass stiffer measures.
The proposal offered a more sweeping and radical approach than the nuts-and-bolts legislative groundwork and public safety campaigning that often occupies gun safety advocates.
But Shapiro, a prominent Sonoma County voice among those ranks, was happy to read of Newsom’s proposal.
“It has sure galvanized the conversation,” he said. “It was like, ‘Wow, this is an option? OK, let’s think this through.’ There will be more things that emerge as reasonable solutions. But to be at the point where the governor of a state is pushing this forward? That a governor can feel there’s enough political capital in this to put it forward? It shows how much the needle has moved.”
Except this is America, where there often seems to be two needles moving in opposite directions at the same time.
Nicholas Melzian, who works at Independence Armory in Petaluma and owns firearms, believes Newsom is in for an uphill battle
“What we’ve seen with Newsom, he’s all bark and no bite,” Melzian said. “He can basically use the dialogue as currency. But these things are so hard to achieve — you just can’t outlaw gun ownership. There just isn’t data to reflect these restrictions. And gun owners are so concerned with safety that if the data showed restrictions equate to gun safety, we’d be on board.”
Despite his skepticism, Melzian is concerned about the governor’s plan. A big public proclamation like this one, even in the absence of legislation, is likely to result in higher gun prices, and especially handgun prices, he said.
“There would be extra hoops to jump through,” Melzian said. “What ends up happening is restrictions on the market equate to higher prices for the consumer. Given that the cost of freedom is priceless, consumers will meet the market wherever it’s at. You’ll see it affect the price tag, but not the ease with which people get guns.”
Rep. Mike Thompson, one of Sonoma County’s two congressmen and the pointperson among House Democrats on gun violence prevention, was flying from his office in Washington to his home base in Napa Valley on Thursday and was unavailable for an interview, according to a staff member. Thompson’s office provided a written statement in response to a question about his thoughts on Newsom’s proposal:
“Responsible gun owners, parents, gun violence survivors, and elected leaders across our country are working to find solutions that will help save lives and protect our communities — and nothing should be off the table. There are provisions like universal background checks, red flag laws, and raising the age to purchase firearms that are supported by the majority of Americans. Evidence shows that these provisions would save lives, and it is past time to act on gun violence.”
Thompson will be participating June 24 in Rock the Ride, a Napa cycle-and-walk fundraiser for national and local nonprofits that focus on issues of gun violence. A Vietnam War veteran, Thompson is a gun owner and seasoned hunter who has made firearm safety a central plank of his work in Congress, especially in the wake of the 2012 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
He and Shapiro have become allies, supporting measures that seek to reduce gun violence while respecting the Second Amendment. Both believe there is room for compromise — as evidenced by a national poll released April 27.
That poll revealed that a large majority of Americans are in favor of the four specific principles Newsom outlined in his announcement. Eighty-seven percent support criminal background checks on all gun buyers, while 81% support raising the legal purchase age from 18 to 21; 77% approve requiring a 30-day waiting period for firearm purchases and 61% endorse banning assault weapons.
Biased source? The poll was conducted by Fox News.
“Find any other issue in American life that polls above 70% like this,” Shapiro said. “It tells me these are reasonable steps to support public life.”