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Gun limits could lead to recalls of legislators
Joe Garofoli
Updated 11:06 pm, Thursday, October 10, 2013

(Page 1 of 2)
Gun-rights advocates are ready to launch a recall attempt aimed at some of California's most vulnerable Democratic state lawmakers - and the party's supermajority hold on the Legislature - if Gov. Jerry Brown signs some of the dozen-plus gun-control bills sitting on his desk.

They're emboldened by the successful recalls last month of two Colorado Democratic legislators who supported gun restrictions, including the leader of the state Senate. Voters replaced both with Republicans.

"As soon as the results came in Colorado, our phones started ringing," said Jennifer Kerns, the California political consultant who helped lead the Colorado recalls. "Until then, a lot of people thought California was a lost state (on gun-rights issues). But Colorado showed them it doesn't have to be."

Brown wouldn't be a recall target, organizers said. The costs are too great - perhaps $2 million - to gather enough signatures to put a statewide recall on the ballot.

Instead, gun-rights activists are focused on legislators who voted for the gun bills before Brown, a list that includes nearly every Democrat in Sacramento.

The big advantage: Gathering signatures to recall an Assembly or state Senate member is comparatively cheap.

Choosing battles wisely

The recall targets "are going to squeal like stuck pigs and say this is no way to run a government, but what they're doing is no way to run a government," said Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, a 15,000-member organization at the forefront of the political gunbattle.

"If we do this, though, we're going to have to be smart about it," Paredes said.

Being smart means choosing the recall battles wisely.

Gun-rights activists won't charge into battle over just any of the gun laws sitting on Brown's desk. But a few - like AB374, which would ban the sale or possession of any semiautomatic rifle capable of holding a detachable ammunition magazine - would be equivalent "to an erasure of the Second Amendment," said Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks (San Bernardino County), a Tea Party favorite who is at the vanguard of the recall effort and is running for governor next year.

Colorado strategy

Activists don't know how large California's gun-vote bloc might be. Paredes, however, notes that there are 40 million guns in California and that roughly half of the state's households have one.

Gun-rights advocates prevailed in Colorado even though they were outspent 5 to 1 by a coalition of national liberal organizations, which raised nearly $3 million combined, including $350,000 from New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. They dominated the airwaves with TV ads.

On the other side, the gun lobby rallied grassroots supporters, many of whom fueled the campaign with $25 and $50 donations. The National Rifle Association gave roughly as much as Bloomberg. They ran few TV ads.

Another cautionary tale for California Democrats: Both the ousted Colorado incumbents represented districts where there were more registered Democrats than Republicans. However, those Democrats didn't turn out on election day. In one recall race, only 21 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Gun-rights activists will try a similar game plan in California, even though it is a solidly blue state. Organizers are making a list of 10 vulnerable Democratic legislators. Depending on which gun-control measures Brown signs, organizers will probably cull that list to two or three lawmakers.

To qualify a recall measure against a legislator, activists must gather signatures equal to 20 percent of the votes cast in the last election. That threshold narrows the list of potential targets.