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Governor Brown rewards those who steal guns


You would think that it would be non-controversial to make stealing a gun a felony offense, as it was before Proposition 47, which rewarded gun thieves by reducing the crime to a misdemeanor if the gun was valued at less than $950. After all, those who steal guns typically do so to use in a future crime, not because they are gun collectors.

So non-controversial was AB 1176, a bill in this year’s legislative session making gun thefts again a felony crime, it received near-unanimous support in the state legislature. It passed the Assembly on a 77-0 vote, and the Senate on a 34-1 vote. But, that was the end of the road. Why? Because Governor Brown vetoed the legislation. His reason: “This bill proposes to add an initiative that is nearly identical to one which will already appear on the November 2016 ballot. While I appreciate the authors’ intent in striving to enhance public safety, I feel that the objective is better attained by having the measure appear before the voters only once.”

Sorry, Governor Brown, but the “identical to the initiative” reason can only charitably be described as duplicitous. At the same time the Governor vetoed AB 1176, he signed into law other gun measures “nearly identical” to those which will be in an initiative on the November 2016 ballot, such as the restriction on magazine capacity. Were Governor Brown intellectually consistent, he would have vetoed those bills as well. Further, bills presented to the Governor for signing have been passed by the legislature and have not “appeared before the voters,” making his ending rationale of wanting “only one appearance before voters” factually meritless.

So, what motivated Governor Brown to veto this legislation? Well, one can look at Governor Brown’s statement and actions regarding incarcerating felons. In 2015, he used strong language to veto numerous measures because he objected to new crimes and penalties. Those offenses included criminalizing flying drones over fires and interfering with firefighters, punishing sex offenders who removed tracking devices, and penalizing those who operated illicit drug labs. In explaining his veto, the Governor wrote that we should “reflect how our system of criminal justice could be made more human, more just and more cost-effective.”

In the Governor’s view, our system of criminal justice system is made more “human, just and cost effective” by not sending people to prison for committing crimes. And, if sent to prison, he wants inmates to avoid serving the full sentence imposed-as reflected by his initiative that will appear on the November ballot allowing wholesale early release for convicted criminals. So, gun thieves in California, rest easy.

As the late Paul Harvey used to say “And now you know the rest of the story.”

George Hofstetter is President of the Association for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs. ALADS is the collective bargaining agent and represents more than 8,200 deputy sheriffs and district attorney investigators working in Los Angeles County. George can be contacted at ghofstetter@alads.org.

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