And I do honestly mean interesting. While I can’t actually endorse Kevin Paffrath’s proposals, they’re definitely not the standard anti-gun talking points we typically hear from California Democrats. In fact, compared to what Gavin Newsom has to say about the Second Amendment, Kevin Paffrath sounds more like the second coming of Charlton Heston.
Paffrath, by the way, is a 29-year old YouTube influencer who’s actually ahead of all other candidates vying to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom if the sitting governor gets ousted by voters next month. The self-proclaimed JFK-style Democrat garnered support from 27% of respondents in a recent Survey USA poll, just ahead of talk show host and Republican candidate Larry Elder’s 23%. As NY Mag recently reported, Paffrath’s popularity is obviously a concern for Republicans hoping to take control of the governor’s mansion, but Democrats are also not thrilled to see the “quirky” candidate emerge as one of the favorites to replace Newsom.
Party leaders would prefer that its voters slam-dunk the recall and then ignore the replacement contest. They remember what happened in 2003 when the replacement candidacy of Democratic lieutenant governor Cruz Bustamante was thought to have helped ensure Gray Davis’s recall without boosting Bustamante to the governorship (won by Arnold Schwarzenegger with a minority of the replacement vote). One way of looking at it is that Democrats and Team Newsom can ignore Paffrath and just treat him as a last-gasp safety valve if the worst happens in the vote to recall or retain Newsom. But there are some Democratic constituency groups and good-government types that might prefer a Republican to Paffrath, whose platform is an eclectic “centrist” combo platter with items that will be hard to digest, according to Staggs:
On the right, there are his proposals to make all coronavirus safety measures optional, to ditch income tax for anyone making less than $250,000, to use the National Guard to get all unhoused Californians off the streets and to give trained gun owners more rights. His introduction video also features clips from Fox News and from conservative media host Ben Shapiro.
After reading that, I was curious to learn more about Paffrath’s positions on the Second Amendment. While there’s not a ton of information on his campaign website, there is Point 16 in his 20 Point Plan for the state.
Those individuals who are trained, legal-gun-owners, and background checked shall have more weapon rights in California, such as carrying concealed weapons. California complaint-weapon rules and the California handgun roster have increased gun violence, not reduced it. At the same time, we have to understand gun violence has many causes from mental health, poverty, economic reasons, depression, and more. To eliminate gun violence, we need to focus on all of these priorities while restoring liberties for Americans.
We’ll get to Paffrath’s position on licensing in a moment, but first we really should acknowledge how remarkable it is for a Democrat in California to recognize that the state’s gun control laws have actually made things worse. Paffrath even calls out the state’s handgun roster, which as we pointed out earlier this week, helps to create a black market for pistols that are freely available to gun owners in the rest of the country. I honestly can’t remember the last time a California Democrat was publicly critical of the state’s gun control regime, and the fact that the leading Democrat in polling to replace Newsom holds this position is definitely worth noting.
Now… about Paffrath’s views on gun licensing. In addition to the brief mention above, the candidate’s website elsewhere goes into a little more detail about his idea.
There are millions of guns on the streets that we know nothing about. Anyone can carry a gun and the great majority of these individuals are completely unknown to the state.
Therefore, instead of encouraging illegal gun use, we will expand Californian’s access to LEGALLY own guns safely with multiple-tiered licenses based on hours of training.
This will lead to more mental-health screening and required hours of training in exchange for special privileges. For example, today, any criminal can carry a gun and 99% of us wouldn’t know about it.
However, a lawful citizen with hundreds of hours of gun training finds it nearly impossible to apply for a concealed carry license. This is ridiculous.
For the people who make the investment into safe and trained gun ownership, California shall issue licenses.
Paffrath’s endorsement of “shall issue” carry licenses is another surprise, though I have some big questions about his idea for multiple-tiered licenses based on hours of training. At the end of the day we’re talking about a constitutionally protected right here, and I don’t like the idea of some residents being able to access “special privileges” based on their ability to pay for additional certified training hours.
I’d also like to know what Paffrath thinks the penalty should be for carrying without a license. He’s right that criminals can carry a gun and most of the time they’ll be able to get away with it, but what does he think should happen to those arrested for merely possessing a gun in public without a license? Should that result in prison time? What about a fine or community service? Should it be a misdemeanor or a felony offense, or should it be decriminalized altogether?
After watching a 15-minute long video of Paffrath discussing the recent shooting in San Jose, I’m of the opinion that the candidate is philosophically on the side of the Second Amendment but a) isn’t that comfortable articulating his objections to gun control and b) doesn’t want to scare off Californians who have become accustomed to viewing support for more gun control as the caring and progressive thing to do. Take a look for yourself:
Paffrath talks a lot about the need for improved mental health services and even more holistic changes that can’t really be imposed through legislation, but he doesn’t really get into his objections about gun control other than to say that it’s a simple solution to a complicated problem. That’s true, as far as it goes, but I’m not sure that Paffrath has studied the issue enough to articulately talk about why it’s such a simplistic solution; both from a pragmatic and a rights-based perspective.
If Newsom is voted out of office, Democrats in Sacramento are still going to have a legislative supermajority, so even if Paffrath or Larry Elder (who I’d say has the more conventional pro-Second Amendment approach of the two candidates) end up replacing the sitting governor, they’re not going to be able to make wholesale changes to the state’s gun control laws. Still, I find it fascinating and cause for cautious optimism that the top two choices to replace Newsom (at least at the moment) are both Californians who say the state’s current gun control laws need an overhaul in favor of the right of the people to keep and bear arms.