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Gun-control bills tailored for SF, Oakland advance

The Legislature on Friday sent two city-specific gun control measures – both for the Bay Area – to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Senate passed AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which would give Oakland special permission to pass and enforce gun registration and licensing ordinances that are stricter than state law.

Bonta on Friday noted FBI statistics show Oakland last year had California’s highest violent-crime level, and the nation’s third highest. The city had more than 4,000 firearm-related crimes and 131 homicides in 2012; it has had 65 deaths by firearm so far in 2013.

“No one can deny that Oakland is suffering,” he said in a news release, adding his bill “is a smart and sensible bill that empowers Oakland and provides local control in addressing gun violence—where it is needed most.”

Bonta was appointed chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay this year, and he and fellow committee member Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will hold a news conference Monday morning in Oakland to urge Brown to sign this and other bills.

Meanwhile, the Assembly on Friday passed SB 475 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would require permission from the San Francisco and San Mateo County boards of supervisors in order for gun shows to be held at the Cow Palace – in effect, banning any future gun shows there.

“For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding the Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored,” Leno said in a news release Friday. “Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. This proposal gives local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

The Cow Palace straddles the county line, and is operated by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions. Leno twice before has authored bills to impose flat-out bans on gun and ammunition sales at the Cow Palace: AB 2948 of 2008 failed on the Senate floor, and SB 585 of 2009 was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

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Oakland & Sac mayors met with Obama today

Oakland’s Jean Quan and Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson were among 18 U.S. mayors who met with President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today at the White House to discuss strategies to reduce youth violence.

According to the White House’s readout of the meeting, Obama “reiterated that government alone can never fill the void that causes a child to turn to violence, but that we all have a responsibility to do our part to create safe communities and save lives.”

“The President applauded the mayors for their local efforts to combat violence, solicited their input about proven methods, and pledged his Administration’s partnership,” the White House reported. “He also vowed to continue doing everything in his power to combat gun violence through executive action and to press Congress to pass common-sense reforms like expanding the background check system and cracking down on gun trafficking.”

For the complete list of mayors at today’s meeting, follow after the jump.
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Surveillance: Drones, drugs & ‘Domain Awareness’

On the domestic surveillance news front today: The Assembly Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 6, on domestic use of drones.

Among those scheduled to testify are Professor YangQuan Chen of the UC Merced School of Engineering; Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean; CalFire Deputy Director Andy McMurry; TerrAvion founder and CEO Robert Morris; Professor Elizabeth Joh of the UC Davis School of Law; Linda Lye, attorney with the ACLU of Northern California; and Jennifer Lynch, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to noon, and the public can listen online.

“The Public Safety Committee has been called upon this session to evaluate some bills involving the use of drones,” committee chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “However, it’s such a new subject; we need to develop a base of knowledge and a context for making decisions on these important bills.”

Also, Reuters reports today that a secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit – operating in tandem with the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security – is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

And, I was on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California” on Friday night to discuss Oakland’s controversial decision to expand its public video surveillance:

It was a lively discussion, but I wish I’d had a chance to delve into other topics such as how Oakland and other cities share the intelligence they gather with a regional “fusion center” located in a federal building in San Francisco; varying policies on how long such video footage is retained; and how easy it is for cities with extensive video surveillance networks to later add in software such as facial-recognition programs. I touched on some of these topics in a story I co-authored in June.

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Israel re-opens probe of Oakland activist’s injury

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to reopen an investigation into the grievous head injury suffered by an Oakland activist during a West Bank protest in March 2009, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

Tristan AndersonTristan Anderson, then 39, was at a protest of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank city of Na’alin when a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier struck him in the head, causing severe brain damage.

The Israel Defense Force investigated whether the Border Police were at fault following the incident, but a petition to the court – filed by attorneys for Anderson’s family and by Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights group – claimed the probe was inadequate. The petition said the army did not visit Na’alin and questioned only a few soldiers who were on the scene; it’s not clear whether the army questioned the soldier who fired the canister. No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the case.

“It is the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate suspicions of unwarranted injury of protesters, which occur time after time,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said in a news release issued by Anderson’s supporters Wednesday. “It is a shame that it took three-and-a-half years for the High Court to intervene in order to force the investigators to implement basic investigative procedures.”

Anderson’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said in the release that her son “will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.” The family’s civil lawsuit against the Israeli military and government is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Gabrielle Silverman of Oakland – Anderson’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was injured – said Wednesday that Anderson was released from an Israeli hospital in June 2010 and now lives with his parents in Grass Valley. He remains hemiplegic – paralyzed on his left side – and suffers permanent cognitive and emotional impairments from his injury; he requires around-the-clock care, Silverman said.

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Oakland developer named to state medical board

A prominent Oakland developer and political mover and shaker was appointed to the embattled California Medical Board on Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Phil Tagami in the Rotunda Building Nov. 2011 (Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard)Phil Tagami, 47, of Oakland, has served in various positions at the California Capital and Investment Group since 1992, including president and CEO. He’s been responsible for leading the redevelopments of the Rotunda Building in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue in the Uptown district, and the West Oakland train station.

He also has worked in public service for more than 20 years with various municipal and state appointments, including chair of the California Lottery Commission from 2012 to 2013 (another appointment by Brown), commissioner of the California Transportation Commission from 2008 to 2009, commissioner of the California State Park and Recreation Commission from 2003 to 2006 and commissioner of the California State World Trade Commission from 2002 to 2003.

Tagami was commissioner of the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Review Board from 1994 to 1996 and commissioner of the Oakland Environmental Affairs Commission from 1992 to 1994. As Oakland’s mayor, Brown had named Tagami to Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners, on which he served from 2000 to 2003.

Tagami has been a significant Democratic campaign benefactor, co-hosting fundraisers for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007 and Brown in 2009. Tagami also has had a close relationship with former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, formerly of Oakland; it was Perata who named Tagami to the California Transportation Commission.

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The California Medical Board has been under attack lately, accused of failing to properly discipline doctors accused of having harmed patients; there’s particular concern that the board has turned a blind eye to reckless prescriptions.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Los Altos, and state Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, have introduced legislation that would strip the board of its investigative powers and give those powers instead to the state Attorney General, leaving the board to deal mainly with licensing. And the Sacramento Business Journal reports today that a similar initiative may be in the works for the November 2014 ballot.

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Bay Area-based gun control bills advance

As a bipartisan deal on increased background checks for gun sales appears to be headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate, some state lawmakers from the Bay Area are celebrating their own progress on gun-control measures yesterday in Sacramento.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee advanced a slew of gun bills on a series of party-line, 5-2 votes yesterday.

Mark DeSaulnierAmong them were two bills by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

SB 293 would require all newly made or imported handguns in California be “owner-authorized,” or “smart guns” personalized in a way that would allow them to be fired only by authorized persons. This requirement would take effect eighteen months after the state California Attorney General makes a finding that owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale and meet stringent performance criteria specified in the bill.

And DeSaulnier’s SB 299 would require that every person whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is subsequently recovered, the local law enforcement agency would have to be notified within 48 hours as well.

“It is critical that we promote safe and responsible gun ownership,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “These bills will help us prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and ensure they are only operated by their lawful owners.”

Leland YeeAlso passed by the committee were two bills by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

SB 47 would prohibit the use of “bullet buttons” or other devices that allow for easily changeable magazines on firearms deemed assault weapons by state law. Such firearms would only be allowed to have ammunition magazines holding up to 10 rounds, which could not be changed without dissembling the weapon; essentially, bullets would have to be loaded one-by-one from the top of the gun.

And Yee’s SB 108 would require all guns to be properly stored when an adult isn’t home. Current law requires that gun owners own a trigger lock or safety lock box for their weapon, but doesn’t require such a device be used on an idle firearm; Yee’s bill would specifically require that any firearm be stored with a trigger lock or in a lock box at a residence when the owner isn’t there.

“The horrors of Newtown and countless other mass shootings are still with us,” Yee said in his own news release. “With this in mind, it is our responsibility to make sure our laws protect the innocent from the threat of gun violence.”

In other Bay Area-based gun policy news, Oakland City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to pass a bill creating a bullet tax.

AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would impose a 10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention efforts in the state’s most crime-ridden areas. Bonta had said last month that his bill might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. He also said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.”

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the resolution along with City Attorney Barbara Parker, issued a statement saying that the bill’s endorsement is part of an effort to work with state officials to stop gun violence.

“This bill would significantly improve our ability to make communities safer,” Kaplan said. “I’m committed to working with leaders at all levels of government to stop gun violence.”

AB 187 is scheduled to be heard Monday, May 6 by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.