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NRA: California — Prisoners Of The State

Orange peel revealing an eyeball

Election day jammed California citizens into an untenable position: Proposition 57 releases violent criminals for budgetary reasons, while Proposition 63 drastically restricts residents’ ability to defend themselves.

by Natalie Foster

Last November, the American electorate stunned the press and coastal elites when we chose Donald Trump as our 45th president. While half the country celebrated the conservative sweep of the federal government—and Trump signaled his desire to represent people of all political stripes to truly make America stronger—citizens in some areas of our nation actually became more vulnerable.

California voters unwittingly tied the hands of law enforcement officials and judges with Prop 57, while simultaneously shackling the right to armed self-defense with Prop 63.

In particular, Californians face a bleaker and more dangerous future with the passage of ill-advised state ballot initiatives—two of which will likely work in tandem to increase crime rates and endanger law-abiding citizens, according to law enforcement officials.

The first—Proposition 57, authored by Gov. Jerry Brown—seems at first blush to reveal a seemingly logical, practical and even kind-hearted change intended to slow the ballooning prison population of “non-violent” offenders by reducing their sentences for good behavior. According to the voter guide, the initiative was endorsed by “California public safety leaders and victims of crime.” The language is nebulous, to be sure, but is worded so as to inspire a typical voter to simply trust those presumably authoritative “leaders” or heart-wrenching “victims” and vote “Yes.”

But Prop 57’s most problematic component—the one that has inspired so much ire, even from some who voted for it—is the deceptive use of the legal categorizations of crime. Prop 57 does not change the legal definition of “violent crime.” It does, however, manipulate the voter based on its definitions of “violent” versus “serious,” or “non-violent,” crime.

Therein lies the rub. If you have ever spent time in a jury box, or simply read a cell phone contract, you know that legal language and colloquial language are two very different things. In California, crimes including, but not limited to, human trafficking, sexual assault of a minor and even domestic violence are legally dubbed “serious” as opposed to “violent.” These crimes of a serious nature, therefore, land in the category of “non-violent” by default. So because crimes including exploding a destructive device with intent to cause injury and assault with a deadly weapon of a peace officer are deemed “serious” (not “violent”) according to California law, they fall into the category of non-violent offenses. Prop 57 exploits this loophole in the language of the law and will allow people committing crimes like these to be eligible for early parole. Bottom line, Prop 57 will result in dangerous, violent criminals back out on the street. It’s a verbal shell game, and the voters lose every time.

Orange peel revealing an eyeball
Californians face a bleaker and more dangerous future with the passage of ill-advised state ballot initiatives—two of which will likely work in tandem to increase crime rates and endanger law-abiding citizens, according to law enforcement officials.

Many who voted in favor of Prop 57 now feel duped by its manipulative language. One Facebook user who voted for the initiative noted later, “I thought I was informed about this one; everything I read about it said it was focused on rehabilitation for juveniles and nonviolent offenders.”

Dan Dow, district attorney for San Luis Obispo County, explained the post-election concern of many voters. “I’ve heard so many voters who voted for it tell me they are angry because it said ‘non-violent,’” Dow said. “Rape of an unconscious person is obviously violent. Human trafficking a child for sexual purposes is bad enough to be violent because of what is being done to these children. Placing a bomb in a church or a school is clearly violent.” Dow explained that, prior to Prop 57, those definitions didn’t matter, since both categories were considered strikes under the state’s Three Strikes law.

Law enforcement officials’ concerns that Prop 57 will inevitably lead to an increase in crime are well justified. In May 2016, the California Police Chiefs Association assessed the effects of a similar law—Proposition 47, passed in 2014—and noted that crime rates in population centers of more than 100,000 had increased more than 15 percent since its passage. The crime rate in similar population centers elsewhere in the nation ticked up only 1 percent.

“The increase in property crime in the California cities already reporting is the largest year-over-year increase in property crimes since at least 1960,” the group’s press release stated. “The increase in violent crime is the largest year-over-year increase since 1990.” Notably, while advocates of Prop 47 also promised to facilitate rehabilitation programs from the fiscal savings the measure would provide, such programs still have not materialized.

The same will be true of Prop 57, which even the law enforcement community strongly opposed. When asked if he knew of law enforcement officers who supported Prop 57, John Marrs, a retired 25-year veteran of San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Department, responded, “Not a single one.”

On the other side of the issue, in an interview with the Mercury News on why California voters should approve Prop 57, Gov. Brown appealed to voters’ humanity by saying, “Why not give some of these people a second chance? Isn’t that human nature? Aren’t redemption and forgiveness what it’s all about? If we take away all of that, the inmates have no hope. We’re throwing them in a cell with no hope.”

Of course, his remarks beg the critical question: What about their victims?

As if the manipulation of the electorate and the skirting of the definition of “violent” crime in the nation’s most populous state wasn’t enough, Californians also passed Proposition 63, which further restricts gun rights by reiterating some of the unconstitutional “Gunmageddon” laws Gov. Brown signed into law in July—and adding a few more for good measure.

C.D. Michel, firearms attorney and president of the California Rifle & Pistol Association, notes that there are only a few differences between Prop 63 and the legislation passed in July 2016. The redundancy of this law highlights the fact that the initiative was written to garner another feather in Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s political cap as opposed to protecting the safety of Californians.

Michel outlined the false premise of the gun control initiatives that California politicians have sold to the public: “The lie that they are trying to tell is that when they passed the state ‘assault weapons’ law, gun violence has gone down. They call it ‘gun violence’ because they can include suicide and accidents. They say, ‘Look how California’s gun violence rate has gone down since about 1990.’”

“The gun accident rate declined because NRA instructors began aggressively teaching gun safety” Michel says. Because of the skewed definitions used by anti-gun groups, this drop in firearm-related accidents also resulted in a decrease in so-called “gun violence.”

But despite the reduction, these ill-conceived laws will have a damaging effect on both the California firearm retail industry and state law enforcement, as those guilty of assault with a deadly weapon of a peace officer will be eligible for early parole since the crime is not classified as “violent.”

Like law enforcement across the nation, officers in California already face plenty of danger. In October 2016, two Palm Springs officers responded to a domestic disturbance in which 26-year-old convicted felon and self-proclaimed gang member John Felix was “acting crazy,” according to his father. Felix was illegally in possession of a gun and told his family he was going to shoot police. A standoff ensued, and the two responding officers—27-year-old Lesley Zerebny, recently back from maternity leave, and Jose “Gil” Gilbert Vega, a father of eight who was set to retire two months later—were murdered. Their killer had been charged in 2009 with attempted murder, but had pleaded down to assault with a firearm.

By keeping the House and Senate and taking back the presidency, American gun owners won a victory that could protect our federal courts for a generation.

Perhaps the most cumbersome aspect of the new law lies in the ammunition background check provision, which will require the state to build a “massive database of criminal and mental health records,” according to Michel. “They will not be allowed to use NICS, because it is only allowed for gun background checks. So they are going to have to build a redundant NICS. New York state wrestled with this and saw that it was going to cost $100 million, and basically abandoned it.”

In fact, California already holds a criminal records database and a registered firearms database. “Those databases are riddled with errors,” Michel said. “Now they will have to create a database that is much, much bigger and will hold a lot more data, and most of the data will be useless.” He added, “Registering ammo is basically backdoor gun registration, which will be challenged in court.”

In a nutshell, California voters unwittingly tied the hands of law enforcement officials and judges with Prop 57, while simultaneously shackling the right to armed self-defense with Prop 63.

“Public safety professionals have been watching this for years and they are recognizing the [state’s] desire to want to let criminals back on the street again,” Michel says. “So now there is a new dynamic in which police oppose gun control because they see the other side of the coin of softer sentencing.”

There is, however, hope for the future. By keeping the House and Senate and taking back the presidency, American gun owners won a victory that could protect our federal courts for a generation. Now, a PAC known as the Coalition for Civil Liberties, of which the NRA is a supporter, is ready to take legal action to counter California’s dangerous new restrictions.

But until future legal victories can reverse the damage done to California’s freedom, the burden for the near future could, sadly, be carried on the shoulders of unarmed Californians, who will increasingly become victims of serious, and yes, “violent” crime.

Will the new laws make Californians less safe? Share your predictions and opinions in the comment section.

This feature appears in the January ‘17 issue of NRA America’s 1st Freedom, one of the official journals of the National Rifle Association.

The Mission of Cheaper Than Dirt!'s blog, The Shooter's Log, is to provide information—not opinions—to our customers and the shooting community. We want you, our readers, to be able to make informed decisions. The information provided here does not represent the views of Cheaper Than Dirt!

Comments (33)

  1. I am embarrassed to say that I still live in this God forsaken state (CA). I will say however that I have lived here since 1959 when it truly was a great state. Even Edmund Brown Sr. was a better Governor than his son. I guess Jerry must have blown his mind on drugs and communist propaganda in the 60’s, hence the name Moonbeam. I met Ronald Reagan when he was Governor of this state in the late 60’s and it was still great then. I guess California started falling apart once the kids going to college and being socialistically indoctrinated in the 80’s and 90’s started working for state government and the Hispanic Socialists started entrenching themselves into positions of power. Of course they couldn’t have done it without the electorate voting them into powerful positions. Well, as it turns out, many of those members of the electorate are also products of a public education. Public institutions of learning (and many private ones as well) are also indoctrination centers for the left. Many of us who went to college or university never developed the skills of critical thinking and remained unwitting dupes of the leftist propaganda we learned, especially those who went to work for the government.

  2. I live in California. I was born here, as were my parents. I have always owned guns. But the passage of these latest laws shows me that California has changed. People have become unthinking idiots. The problem is they still vote. But I wonder where the NRA was last year. I saw NOTHING from them regarding these laws. I am stuck here so can’t leave. But I am so angry with the NRA, I can and have left them. So much for ‘keeping the population (of Ca) informed’.

    1. John,
      The NRA and CRPA have been monitoring and informing their members throughout the entire process. I get emails from them every day about developing progresses in the state laws. You have to sign up for the email notification which is pretty simple, or you can get the info directly from either organization’s website. The NRA attorneys have been battling the state every step of the way. With the appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice, lawsuits will be filed to challenge the recent anti gun initiatives. Please don’t write off the NRA without knowing the facts. Go to NRA-ILA to sign up for the notifications.

  3. It’s Ca. It’s run by liberal democrats. Move! Leave! Get out! Or you can stay there and have your Constitutional rights tea peeled on. In which case sipuck it up and take it.

    1. I have been saying, some of CA-elected officials are nuts, fruit, and flakes and should be boxed and sold for breakfast food. Seriously, why do people keep electing these liberals? They want to leave the nation and form their own country? Go ahead. We could add P.R. and not have to change the stars on the flag. But, maybe they could annex to Mexico, and see how life there would be; there so many illegals now, it shouldn’t make much difference.

    2. California leaving the U.S.? Yeaaa.. there’s a good idea. Just ask South Carolina how well that worked out for them.

  4. May I also add: the 2A is an inalienable right, meaning endowed by God. It is the right to self preservation/defense. No government/politician has the authority to preclude you from protecting yourself. The 2A is a vehicle created by the framers to enforce this right. A majority vote to eviscerate self preservation and the 2A is patently unconstitutional. In a Democracy this would be legal. This is why the framers gave us a representative republic, not a democracy.

  5. John, you are almost correct. The 2nd Amendment is not a “federal right”. The amendment says to government, “don’t even think about screwing with this pre-existing right”. The Bill of Rights could more accurately be called a “Bill of Restrictions”, as it restricts the fedgov from meddling with our fundamental rights that pre-date government. And the restrictions are also binding on the states, each of which recognizes the Constitution with its Amendments as the supreme law of the land. Therefore, Prop 63 is unconstitutional, and the Supreme Court will most likely rule that way.

  6. This is just a digusting government allowing the scum diease to spread and influence the next generation for the purpose of wasteful government capitalization and power. America’s incarceration rate is 6 higher per GOP than the second worst country in world that is England. Based on 2006 census it cost tax payers average $33,000 per year per incenration. I would hate to think what the figures in California alone is or the cost of additional law enforcement, judicial personal, etc. No wonder California is the most bankrupt state in nation full of a growing culture that lives on hate and drugs and has done more damage/murder more people than any terrorist organization has ever touch. Its time for the conservative states to tell California we are not going to pick your tab of stupidity and greed when they steal federal tax money paid by the responsible conservative states. These felons should be treated like the real countries in Asia do and stop the scum diease from spreading and bring crimes down to almost nothing. Bring back chain gangs, slave labor for felons rather than from China, death penalty and a zero tolerance policy. I think the rest of the nation needs to let states like California we do not stand for this type of unprecedented corruption and crime sponsor ship and threatened to disembark from the rest of the nation, starting by cutting their federal funding that the conservative states are paying in anyway. If we don’t California along with Illinois will just become America’s Greece.

  7. This is just a digusting government allowing the scum diease to spread and influence the next generation for the purpose of wasteful government capitalization and power. America’s incarceration rate is 6 higher per GOP than the second worst country in world that is England. Based on 2006 census it cost tax payers average $33,000 per year per incenration. I would hate to think what the figures in California alone is or the cost of additional law enforcement, judicial personal, etc. No wonder California is the most bankrupt state in nation full of a growing culture that lives on hate and drugs and has done more damage/murder more people than any terrorist organization has every touch. Its time for the conservative states to tell California we are not going to pick your tab of stupidity and greed when they still federal tax money paid by the responsible conservative states. These felons should be treated like the real countries in Asia do and stop the scum diease from spreading and bring crimes down to almost nothing. Bring back chain gangs, slave labor for felons rather than from China, and a zero tolerance policy. I think the rest of the nation needs to let states like California we do stand for this type of unprecedented corruption and crime sponsor ship and threatened to dismbark from the rest of the nation, starting by cutting their federal funding that the conservative states are paying in anyway. If we don’t California along with Illinois will just become America’s Greece.

  8. With the presidency and both houses of congress under Republican control there is no reason not to pass civil rights legislation cancelling the initiative that passed in California and prohibiting similar outrages. The Second Amendment is a federal right. The 14th Amendment contains an enforcement clause that empowers congress to legislate to protect federal rights. This is clearly a situation that screams for such legislation. The Second Amendment should not mean something different in Montana and California. A federal right is a federal right.

  9. Well, what did you expect from Jerry “Pro-Crime” Brown? Remember this is the state that elected Diane “I’m Above The Law” Feinstein, Barbara “Check Kiter” Boxer, Nancy “Too Lazy To Read Before Voting” Pelosi to office. Haven’t determined yet what law Kamel Harris flouts to get elected Attorney General and now Senator.

  10. I’ve had enough of the anti-gun Nazis in the Soviet Socialist Republic of California. Let them keep their whining little bedwetting Governor Moonbeam and their two-faced Marxists in the California legislature. It’s not safe for sane humans any more. I’m leaving.

    1. Uh, sorry Cato. To leave Calistinkonia you must show “proof of Ownership” by producing a firearm in your possession at the point of debarkation from that insane state. Remember when you had to show you had money to get in back during the dust-bowl days? Well, Karma is a Bitch! LoL!! Show me yours and I’ll let you in.

  11. I too am domiciled in the Democratic Peepuls Republik of Kallyforniya. I was just stunned that 57 and 63 passed. I knew we had a lot of really liberal touchy feely folk in this state but I didn’t know that they were also brain dead too. As soon as I can manage it I am going to flee to the United States of America. I can continue the good fight by financially supporting the good folks who remain here to continue the fight, but I don’t see much hope for Moonbeam McBrown’s utopia. Each year the legislators get worse and worse. I voted against full time legislators when that proposition was on the ballot back in the 60’s. At that time New York was the only state with full time legislators. We know how screwed up NY is. I didn’t want Kallyforniya to go down the same path as NY. Well, I was right and here we are. As long as we have the Ninth Circus (that’s not a misspelling, that’s what it is commonly called) Court of Appeals presiding over The Democratic Republik any litigation is liable to take longer than I have to live. Sorry, guys, I just can’t wait 20 years for litigation to finally come to a conclusion.

  12. I admit it, I live in this quagmire liberal state of stupid ill informed citizens. I watched the election results that night in horror, what the hell, didn’t you idiots even read prop 57 and 63? And then legalized dope? What were you thinking? Talk about let’s just open the door and let all the violence out and give them some marijuana and have them shoot your kids in school! I have two options, one move out (which I have had my bug out bag packed for years) or stay here and continue my attempt to reason with these liberals and Stand and Fight! The county in which I live, although a minority in such a large state, was the only county that went to Trump and voted against MJ, 57, 63, and I’m proud of this… the county’s name is Nevada. It was up north in the Sierras. Take out a map, take a look at the shape of the county, its shaped in the shape of a handgun pointed toward the State of Nevada. Before Nevada became a state they liked the name of that county in California, Nevada and took it for its state name. So in retaliation, the county of Nevada was so angry we carved out the county in the shape of a pistol so for all time the State of Nevada will know, “we’re watching you and are not happy”. So yes California sucks, but Nevada County remains the only county that has a brain. President Trump, please help us, I’m sending an SOS! God Bless The USA!

  13. California’s “Props” show why “the people” should not be making laws. People, generally, are uninformed, emotional, and ignorant about the issues. Lawmaking should left to the elected officials.

  14. Bear in mind that the ballot initiative system in California enables some crazy, and sometimes contradictory, issues to be put up for vote. Over time, this system, combined with the knowledge that the voting public is largely, and increasingly uninformed, invites organizations with sinister intent to drive for laws that only harm the public but accomplish agendas for said groups.

  15. I am tired of “the people” of California turning their voter remorse into a type of victimization which they later claim was due to so-called political deception and misrepresentations. The truth is they were too lazy to do the proper research before voting.

    As with every election, there were many “Pros vs. Cons” statements published and made available well before the election. These statements made it very clear what the adverse repercussions of passing such a law would be. But if it didn’t come across their Twitter or Facebook feeds, well then it must not be worth their time.

    At a minimum Californians needed only look no further than the stated Title and Purpose of Proposition 57 which clearly explained its real intent, which was to – reduce a bloated and mismanaged fiscally irresponsible state budget.

    Nothing good could ever come from the early release of evil people in exchange for the government’s recoupment and redistribution of tax dollars originally intended for public safety. I am aware not all Californians voted for this, but the majority that did have no one to blame but themselves.

    1. You are spot on in your analysis. I would just add, with regard to prop 63, it was opposed by every law enforcement agency in the state with an in-depth analysis by those agencies as to why this is a bad law. The legislature and the voters chose to ignore this analysis and vote what “feels good” to them. Instead of listening to front line law enforcement who I believe deserve more credibility on this matter than politicians, they chose to listen to the Bureaucrats and Hollywood celebrities. Oh, did I mention that California schools rank near the bottom nationwide in overall performance? I wonder if there is a correlation between California being a super progressive, clueless and ignorant state and the quality of education.

    2. I’m tired of them too, and I moved to Arizona 6 years ago from there. Best thing I ever did in my life. My only regret is I couldn’t do it sooner because of my career. What a shame, such a beautiful state and once bustling economy everyone that wanted a job worked-now devastated because of the commie policies, I’m afraid there isn’t much hope for the remaining good people that still live there.

    3. I have no sympathy for the residents of California. They keep voting for increasing radical left-wing politicians and the act surprised when they get higher taxes and ever more restrictive gun control laws with virtually no improvement in the rates of violent crime.

      I lived in California for at least ten years during the 60s and 70s. It was a beautiful, well run state whose policies were frequently emulated by the legislatures of the other 49. Now it is a sinkhole of drugs, gangs, violent crime, and a law abiding population that is essentially defenseless.

  16. Just confirmation that I did the right thing 50 years ago in deciding to only be in California for short visits. Now, I’m not sure I even want to do that! Why risk becoming a victim of violent crime AND the likelihood of being locked up if I do anything effective to prevent becoming a victim? And, those short visits put a certain amount of money in the hands of the idiots in Sacramento – another thing I have NO desire to do.

    I would recommend that anyone with their head screwed on straight move out of California. For the record, if the only reason you want to leave is to reduce your taxes, stay there – your head is askew. You will be extremely unhappy if you go elsewhere and start whining that “In California” this, that, and the other stupid policy or alleged benefit you do favor doesn’t exist in your new home state. We already have enough “progressives” in Texas to overcome, and don’t want any more!

  17. In one of my other lives, when I graduated from college in 1963, it was the rage to seek employment in the Golden State. I recall that many of my classmates at Eastern Michigan University had interviewed for positions in the Los Angeles Schools, whose salaries were very attractive at the time. Thank God, I had been in ROTC and accepted a commission in the US Army, thus avoiding the temptation to sign a contract with anything remotely related to California…..and put me into a very rewarding 21-year career in the Army.

    One of my sons took up residence in San Marcos, and I visited him from time to time…..always while carrying suitable firepower…..and always thankful to be returning to my adopted state of Texas upon the conclusion of the visits. Even my somewhat liberal son eventually saw the light, and he left California and took up residence in Texas…..albeit in Austin…..a colony of California expatriates that is attempting to be as crazy as California.

  18. The state of California has some of the most ignorant voters in the nation and/or they are incapable of critical thinking. Unfortunately, many voters don’t analyze the content of these propositions and only read the title. There is no will or desire to fully understand the short or long term consequences/ramifications of the actions taken in the propositions. In addition, the democratic majority of California has no interest in being part of a representative republic (they prefer a democracy which is a form of mob rule).

  19. What the Hell is WRONG with You People of California, You let these CORRUPT Scumbag politicians tell you What you can do and how to Live. GET SOME COURAGE and get these Bastards out of your Government.

    1. The problem is that the scumbag politicos are being voted into office by a scumbag electorate, who think a nanny-state is their right and will happily trade their liberty for more govt. handouts. Before California became the People’s Republik of Kommiefornia, it used to be a Republican stronghold. But then they relaxed the requirements for getting public welfare back in the ’80s, and all the dolists freezing their backsides off in the rust belt & New England moved here, where they could continue living off the public dime and be warm into the bargain. Unfortunately, they brought their craptastic urban life welfare statist politics with them, and we’ve been on a downhill trend ever since… California is lost, and Free America needs to wake up & get state constitutional amendments put in place NOW, so that when they finally bankrupt California & move to *your* state, they won’t be able to take over & do to you what happened to us! It’s as simple as this: if you receive 1 cent more in state funds than you pay in taxes, you don’t get to vote. 1 penny more in taxes than state-supplied benefits
      ? You do get to vote. Bingo: politicians will no longer be able to buy votes with the taxpayers’ money & an end to the tail wagging the dog!

    2. Really Gary? If it were only up to “us”
      Plain and simple, we are outnumbered.
      There are more libtards in this state then level headed, common sense people.
      Time to move…

  20. I have wondered for some time just who our elected representatives owe their allegiance to. Lee, an anti-gun Dem was caught attempting to run guns. Another Dem was nailed for political corruption. How many other Dems have not been caught with ties to criminal elements. The majority of the legislators writing anti-gun bills are Hispanics. Just a coincidence? I wonder.

  21. I am deeply concerned about the recent developments with California gun laws. More restrictions on those who obey the law, combined with the release of “non – violent” prisoners and relaxed drug laws create the perfect storm for increased violent crime. I am a retired cop. I do not express my opinion flippantly. My concern is real. It is based on 19 years in law enforcement and common sense. I have watched the pendulum swing many times, but the current swing may be the one that breaks the machine.

    1. They may not vote it out of existence completely, but they are doing their best at relegating it into insignificance. Without the judicial challenges brought by the CRPA and NRA, I’m almost certain that gun rights would not be recognizable in California.

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