California Democrats finally found a "gun safety" bill they can't support

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

The anti-gun majority in Sacramento usually has no issue whatsoever endorsing or approving new gun laws, but a pair of bills inspired by Alec Baldwin’s fatal shooting of a cinematographer on a New Mexico movie set failed to win the approval of lawmakers on Thursday. In fact, the bills won’t even get a vote after a Democratic committee chairman decided to yank them from consideration.

With competing proposals, Democratic state Sen. Anthony Portantino, chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the author of one of the proposals, said he “strongly urged” entertainment industry groups to “work collaboratively to bring forward a consensus approach.

But no one did. Thursday, Portantino decided to hold both bills in committee, meaning they are unlikely to pass the Legislature this year.

Portantino’s one of the leading anti-gun politicians in the California legislature, and has had his hand in plenty of gun control bills in recent years, including the recently overturned law barring California adults under the age of 21 from purchasing semi-automatic long guns. Yet he was willing to yank his own bill from consideration because the entertainment industry wouldn’t collaborate on a bill? A similar lack of cooperation on the part of the California Rifle & Pistol Association or Gun Owners of California would never derail a gun control bill aimed at the general public, and even some of Portantino’s fellow Democrats aren’t buying his excuse.

“It’s a powerful and ruthless industry. First the industry killed Halyna. Then they killed the bill that would’ve made people like her safe,” said state Sen. Dave Cortese, a Democrat who authored the other proposal. “Despite setbacks, I’m committed to real reforms that will protect our workers.”

Cortese’s bill would have banned the use of guns and blank ammunition containing gunpowder or other explosive charges from film sets, with some exceptions. It also would have required producers to hire a set safety coordinator to perform a risk assessment prior to the first day of filming and to enforce safety rules throughout the production.

Portantino’s bill would have allowed guns with blank ammunition on set, but only under the supervision of an armorer who has completed a gun safety course created by the Office of the State Fire Marshal. It would have allowed live ammunition only in certain circumstances.

Portantino said he was “extremely disappointed” entertainment industry groups failed to reach a consensus on the legislation.

“Should there be an agreement forthcoming, I’d be willing and eager to entertain it before the end of the legislative session,” he said.

As you can tell from Cortese’s comments, there’s really no side worth rooting for here. Both Cortese and Portantino want to blame guns for the basic safety and security failures that apparently took place on the set, though their bills took slightly different approaches. And with various industry groups lining up to support or oppose one or more of the bills, Portantino apparently decided this wasn’t a fight worth having.

Compare that to another piece of legislation authored by Portantino that also failed to make it out of committee this year. Portantino introduced a measure that would have required all parents and legal guardians in the state to report their gun ownership and how firearms are stored in their home to their child’s local school district. The measure drew objections from across the political spectrum, including both the ACLU and the NRA, but Portantino fought for the measure until the bitter end.

Portantino acknowledged that legitimate gun owners must already register their weapons with the state, and said he would amend his bill to “focus on unregistered guns” without saying if he expected parents to declare illegally held weapons.

Portantino said he intended to narrow his bill to exclude elementary schools, and to include language “making sure we’re clear that this is about credible, violent threats, not about idle chatter.”

No schools, school districts or school employees came forward to support being required to collect information from parents about firearms possession, [Sen. Connie] Leyva noted.

“I cannot support a requirement that schools interject themselves into issues best left for the Department of Justice or other law enforcement,” she said.

Portantino’s bill was another rare instance where even many California Democrats decided a gun control measure went too far. Besides his own vote, only two other Democrats joined him in voting for the bill in the Senate Education Committee. Portantino had to know going in that his bill was destined to fail, but apparently a lack of consensus wasn’t enough for him to pull it from consideration.. unlike his bill targeting the deep-pocketed entertainment industry instead of law-abiding gun owners.

The contempt that California Democrats have for the Second Amendment is matched by their love of campaign cash, and it looks like Portantino at least is more than willing to back off his crackdown on the entertainment industry rather than risk offending any major donors. His statement about revisiting the issue if the industry itself can agree on how it should be regulated is especially shameless given the fact that he and other Democrats have passed numerous gun control laws over the objections of the firearms industry. Favored industries in California in essence get to pick and choose what the law will be, while undesirables like gun companies (and gun owners) are dismissed and despised by those very same lawmakers. No wonder more residents are checking out of the Hotel California and heading down the road to greener pastures in red states.