Steinberg: Guns, mental health, public records

California State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is about to take the stage here at Netroots Nation in San Jose for a panel discussion on “Not Another Newtown: Building a Movement to Prevent Gun Violence,” but I caught up with him a few minutes ago.

Darrell Steinberg“We want to create momentum here in California and continue to push for a national solution to the gun violence problem,” said Steinberg, D-Sacramento. “We not only want to push through our legislation in California, which I’m confident we’ll be able to, but also to convey that what we’re doing is cutting edge.”

Steinberg is shepherding a package of bills that among many other things would ban all semi-automatic rifles that take detachable magazines – a step well beyond what any other state has taken.

“Rather than clamping down on the newest loophole that they find, we’re making it as clear as can be,” he said. “We need to eliminate not only the current loopholes but also anything else they might think of next.”

Discussing this in front of the liberal online activists of Netroots Nation is “an opportunity to continue to build the extensive public support for reasonable gun regulation,” Steinberg said.

He said he also would like to talk about mental illness, although he’s not willing to equate this with gun control because the vast majority of mentally ill people never commit any violent crimes. Here again, he said, California is far ahead of the curve; he noted that the biggest non-education budget boost this year is for expanded mental-health services.

“Mental health and combating mental illness is a key to solving so many of our society’s seemingly intractable problems,” Steinberg said.

On another matter, Steinberg said he’s satisfied with the resolution to the past week’s flap over budget trailer bills that would’ve gutted the California Public Records Act by letting local governments opt out of major provisions if they don’t want to pay the costs of compliance.

“It was never our intent to undermine the Public Records Act – it was to clarify that public agencies ought to be responsible for the cost of complying with the law,” he insisted, acknowledging that this week’s fiery criticisms of the proposed changes were “a significant distraction to some of the achievements in this year’s budget.”

The Legislature and Gov. Jerry Brown have conceded that they’ll continue the Public Records Act’s state-funded mandate for another year, while putting a constitutional amendment before voters in 2014 to transfer the responsibility for bankrolling the law from the state to local agencies.

Steinberg said he’ll actively and publicly support that amendment when it’s on the ballot, but “I wouldn’t imagine that it would be an amendment that would be very controversial.” Voters should react well to the idea of permanently enshrining the Public Records Act – signed into law in 1968 by Gov. Ronald Reagan – in the state’s constitution.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.

  • MichaelB

    The discussion should be retitled “Building a Movement to Prevent Gun Ownership” instead.

    That’s what so called “progressives” really want even if they won’t admit it in front of the general public. California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation. And the “progressives” in the House of Representatives were just fine with keeping the Washington DC gun bans “as is” before the Supreme Court overturned them.

    Another predictable response from “cutting edge” Steinberg and members of his party – blame guns and manufacturers for violence. There is no “loophole” and who are “they”? The recent US Senate hearings regarding the so called “assault weapons” ban revealed it was ineffective. Rifles are hardly ever used in crimes to begin with. But he (and his “nutroots”) wants another ban. You can’t have a rational discussion with people who think like this despite their claims of being “reasonable”. If there’s a gun around, they’ll eventually want it banned for “prevention” purposes.

    The national solution to so called “gun violence” (made up term to deflect responsibility away from criminals) is to address human behaviors/isolate those who will do us harm. Not by banning or restricting inanimate objects from law abiding people having nothing to do with violence. And that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution.

  • JohnW

    Steinberg: “It was never our intent to undermine the Public Records Act…”

    I don’t believe you. That sneak attack amendment to the budget bill should have been called the Defense of Public Secrecy and Corruption Act.

    I assume the media will stay on top of the ballot initiative. They’d better. You can bet that local governments will try to water it down in various ways.

    Allowing local government to bill the state for costs they incur due to the Public Records law has problems. I’m sure they abuse it by over-charging. On the other hand, the estimated annual cost to the state — $20 million — is a bargain. It’s slightly more than 50 cents for every person living in the state. That’s chump change compared to the cost of not having a Public Records law. I’m concerned that if the local governments are forced to pick up the entire tab, it will give them strong incentive to drag their feet on Public Records requests or start charging fees that would discourage requests for information.

  • Elwood

    Good points, John.

    I would have been a little harder on Steinberg, the lying POS.

  • JohnW

    It was good to see the editorial in today’s (Sunday 6/23) paper warning of the need to keep a close eye on the legislature’s plan to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot. Sorry, I don’t trust these guys’ motives or competence. If there is a way to screw it up, deliberately or otherwise, they will find it.

    As the editorial notes, it is often difficult to gain access to public records even under current law — due to delays or outright defiance of the law. Just imagine how much more of this there will be when local governments and special districts can’t pass some of the cost to the state. The law needs to be strengthened, not weakened.

  • jay

    Im sooo sick of hearing how these jewish people – Lautenberg, Schuman, Bloomberg, Feinstien, Lieberman, Boxer, Weiner, Sugarman, and many more, to include this Steinberg creep^!Look at the Un-Constitutional(Ex-Post Facto)Lautenberg Amendment!Even VillareGROSSuh said gun violence is WAY down in So.Ca. Seems like Feinstien is monopolizing the elections! We need to get rid of these POS (D) Libs^!!!