Responding to the California mass shootings

January 24, 2023

Tragically, my focus on gun violence prevention became more sickeningly relevant after the soul-numbing massacres in Monterey Park, Half Moon Bay and Oakland over the last three days. In 2023, there have been seven mass shootings in the United States, and the year is barely over three weeks old.

It’s painfully obvious that we must do more to stop the gun violence epidemic. These horrific and increasingly common events serve to underscore our mandate.

Flowers are placed near the scene of the deadly mass shooting in Monterey Park. (Photo by Eric Thayer/Getty Images.)

On Sunday, the Los Angeles Times published this editorial, “Monterey Park shooting is horrific, but all too familiar“:

“The gun lobby’s evil genius is so profound that it has convinced millions of Americans that the only way to defend themselves against all the violence perpetrated by a populace with too many guns is to acquire more guns. And the only way to live with this odd version of freedom is to ensure that every school, store, church and party could at any moment become shooting galleries.

“But national suicide is not the compulsory price of freedom. Second Amendment rights are no further beyond rational limitations than 1st Amendment rights.”

Last week I had an important breakthrough when it comes to possible legislation that could help stem this scourge. I spoke with gun safety advocates from multiple organizations, and with the City of San Jose – the only city in the state that has an insurance requirement for gun owners.  I was also lucky enough to spend time talking with my colleague, Senator Nancy Skinner, someone I admire tremendously. She represents Senate District 9, which includes Berkeley and other Bay Area cities, and has two years left in the state senate before she reaches the 12-year term limit.

My esteemed colleague Senator Nancy Skinner.

Senator Skinner introduced a bill last year, SB505, that would require gun owners to buy insurance to financially cover the losses or damages of accidental and negligent use of a firearm. While owning a gun is a constitutional right, there is no Second Amendment right to be free from liability for damages caused by one’s firearm. The premise of the bill is that gun owners, rather than members of the public and victims of gun violence, should bear the costs of gun violence. 

Senator Skinner’s bill did not make it through all the committees needed to get to the floor for a vote of both houses and then onto the governor. I’m working with her and Senator Portantino to bring it back next year. This is encouraging news.

Just as I was heading out of my office on Thursday afternoon for the airport to fly home, staff members on Senator Skinner’s team who worked on the bill last year were heading in to discuss the bill with my staff. Things move quickly around here.

And here’s another promising idea – I’ve had meetings about “micro-stamping” in California. Micro-stamping is a ballistics identification feature that marks bullets and cartridge cases with a unique fingerprint each time a bullet is fired. This technology would allow law enforcement to more effectively investigate murders, homicides and other crimes that involve a fired gun. More information is here.

I hope to have meetings with gun safety groups in Sacramento and in our 38th Senate District to build support for these ideas as they make their way forward.

A day in the life of your new senator

People sometimes ask me, “I know you’re our new senator, but what do you actually do every day?” Good question! You elected me, and I’m up here in Sacramento representing you, so after my third week I thought I’d let you know what what my days are like so far.

As I acclimate to the job, the learning curve is steep but I’m inspired and stimulated by the possibilities. It all still feels somewhat preliminary, and I can’t recall the last time I was this busy.

My days are packed with meetings – with advocates, my elected colleagues, my own staff members regarding my bills and priorities, the professionals who work for Governor Newsom or various committees, and constituent groups or individuals who are connected to our 38th Senate District.

There’s also a lot of discussion about the governor’s proposed budget, because it’s the bottom line upon which negotiations for funding take place.

The brisk walk to my new office helps me get mentally prepared for the long, intense day ahead.

Contrary to expectations, a relatively small amount of my time in Sacramento has actually been spent on the senate floor. It’s too soon for any committee meetings to review bills, and we’re not voting on bills or the budget yet. So senate floor activity continues to be mostly ceremonial recognitions, including memorials of notable people who have passed away in senators’ districts. 

As you know, besides gun violence prevention, I’m dedicated to working on homelessness, environmental priorities, and transportation improvements – specifically the importance of ensuring uninterrupted operation of the essential trains that run along the 350-mile railroad track from the Port of San Diego north to San Luis Obispo. 

It’s a consuming agenda – I talk and think about these topics most of every day. Some issues seem to get more traction than others when I’m in discussion with colleagues, who of course have their own priorities.

Beyond my priorities, I’m particularly interested in understanding those of my colleagues. Many different issues speak to people’s hearts and good things get done when we harness our passions and work together. 

Much of my work as senator happens back here at home in the 38th District. Last weekend, I attended the swearing-in of the Pacific Beach Town Council, together with Assemblymember Tasha Boerner Horvath, San Diego City Councilmember Joe LaCava, San Diego County District Attorney Summer Stephan, and many others. PB is lucky to have such an active and vibrant community organization!

We’ve only just begun…

As your freshman senator, I don’t want to overstate the significance of my first baby steps, or the importance of a partnership with a single senator on one bill. One thing I already know is that there are many ways and reasons that good ideas don’t advance in the legislature. 

And it’s also true that other legislators are much more sophisticated about evaluating what’s possible and they make their decisions accordingly. Given my experience in local government and on regional boards, the wisdom of the saying “politics is the art of the possible,” is certainly true.

But it’s also true that there is no such thing as wasted work. I spent time in my early years on the Encinitas City Council working on things that didn’t come to fruition until years later, when various roadblocks had cleared. 

I try to live by this motto: “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” I’m working to be as prepared as possible so that when opportunity shows up, I’ll be lucky!

Finally, I want to thank you again for putting your trust in me – I’ll work hard to keep it. And here’s wishing you a great week!

To our future,

Sorry, you are not in the 38th Senate District.
You are in the 38th Senate district!