Gun-rights advocates are up in arms about state Sen. Leland Yee’s alleged double life – an ardent gun-control advocate in public, while secretly negotiating with purported mobsters to set up international gun deals.
“It appears that Leland Yee is not only an epic gun-control hypocrite, but also exactly the type of truly dangerous gun trafficking criminal who my clients have always urged authorities to throw the book at,” Chuck Michel, West Coast counsel for the National Rifle Association, said Thursday.
Yee, D-San Francisco, famously has carried “bullet button” legislation, which would ban a common modification to semi-automatic rifles that lets users quickly swap out their ammunition magazines without running afoul of the state’s assault weapons law. His SB 47 was pulled from consideration last August, a few weeks before the end of the legislative session, but remains pending in the Assembly.
That bill was among eight that made up state Senate Democrats “LIFE Act” gun-control package last year.
“The prevalence of deadly, military-style weapons in our society has resulted in countless tragedies,” Yee said last April. “It is past time to put some common sense laws into place in order to prevent such tragedies in the future. The LIFE Act is a bold step forward in this effort.”
Yee is charged with conspiracy to traffic in firearms without a license and to illegally import firearms, and six counts of scheming to defraud citizens of “honest services.” Each corruption count is punishable by up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000, while the gun-trafficking count is punishable by up to five years and $250,000. Free on $500,000 bond, Yee is scheduled to return to court Monday.
An FBI affidavit says Yee told an undercover FBI agent he could facilitate big shipments of guns into the country in exchange for campaign contributions. No guns actually changed hands, but Yee accepted a $5,000 contribution from a bogus company set up by the agent as their negotiations continued in a series of face-to-face meetings from January through March 14. At one such meeting, Yee allegedly discussed specific locations in the Philippines and Florida that might be ideal for moving the guns, which he said would include M-16-type automatic rifles.
Consider what Yee said last October when Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would’ve classified all semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines as banned assault weapons.
“California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades,” Yee said at the time. “But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored. SB 47 will protect the public while keeping an appropriately narrow scope.”
Lots more, after the jump…
Yee also last year authored SB 108, which would’ve required firearms to be safely secured with a trigger lock or in a gun safe when the owner isn’t home.
“All too often, unsecured firearms are stolen and end up on the black market, or are found by a child with tragic consequences,” he said last May. “Safely securing a weapon when leaving it alone in your home is a responsible practice that should be required by law for the benefit of public safety.”
Yee even called the NRA out for hypocrisy for talking about the dangers of violent video games in the wake of the December 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Yee had authored a 2005 law to ban sale of violent video games to children, but the U.S. Supreme Court struck that law down in 2011 on First Amendment grounds.
“When our law was before the Supreme Court – while several states, medical organizations, and child advocates submitted briefs in support of California’s efforts – the NRA was completely silent,” Yee said in December 2012. “Now, rather than face reality and be part of the solution to the widespread proliferation of assault weapons in America, they attempt to pass the buck. More guns are not the answer to protecting our children, as evident by the fact that armed guards weren’t enough to stop the tragedy at Columbine High School. The NRA’s response is pathetic and completely unacceptable.”
Dallas Stout, president of the California Chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and a supporter of Yee’s legislation, declined comment Thursday, as did Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, another outspoken gun-control advocate.
Stout on Friday said he concurred with comments another Brady Campaign activist had provided to the Associated Press.
“I feel very dismayed and upset,” said Amanda Wilcox, whose daughter was a victim of gun violence, but “his actions don’t make what is good policy any less good policy.” Her husband, Nick Wilcox, said advocates are exploring other ways to move Yee’s bills forward; he said he can’t argue with opponents who view the alleged actions as the height of hypocrisy.
Sam Paredes, executive director of Gun Owners of California, said his organization is “shocked and angered.”
“Hopefully it will cause a lot of people who are pushing the pro-gun-control agenda to step back and take another look,” he said. “I think the other side needs to be a little more careful about who they associate with.”
Organizations including Paredes’ and Michel’s in the past have criticized various Democratic, pro-gun-control lawmakers for hypocrisy; for example, many have criticized U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and former state Senate President Don Perata for having concealed-carry permits. Perata let his permit lapse before publicly giving up his handgun in 2008, though he said he still kept a shotgun at home for self-defense. Feinstein no longer has a permit, either.
“There should be no double standard, just because you’re an elected official doesn’t elevate you to a special status,” Paredes said Friday. “You should have to live with the laws that you pass just like everybody else.”
But the allegations against Yee “just go beyond the pale,” he said.
“This is the absolute total height of hypocrisy,” Paredes said, adding Yee has done all he can to deny law-abiding citizens their Second Amendment rights while allegedly negotiating to traffic guns himself. “We are emboldened to be more forthright in our defense of the Second Amendment – after this, nothing will surprise us.”