This year California legislators passed the largest gas tax increase in decades, a move which will hit the middle class the hardest. When middle class taxpayers got upset, Gov. Brown hit back, calling them "freeloaders" and invoking the "everyone has to pitch in for society!" talking points.
Maybe they'd have more money if they weren't spending it on things people don't rely on the government to provide.
One thing legislators have found the money for is anti-gun research. They call it "gun violence research," but make no mistake, there is only one acceptable outcome for the research. During the 2016 legislative session lawmakers approved a bill creating the "University of California Firearms Violence Research Center," allotting $5 million over five years to establish the center and fund operations.
Five million dollars is a drop in the bucket compared to the billions California needs to improve roads, crumbling bridges, and deteriorating dams, but, as they keep reminding residents of the drought-stricken state, drops add up.
The Center opened July 1 at UC Davis, with Dr. Garen Wintemute, a well-known name in both gun control and gun rights circles. He told the Sacramento Bee he "hopes to assess the effectiveness of current laws, including the newly adopted requirement that people who buy ammunition have the legal right to own guns, and of California’s new gun violence restraining orders.”
Wintemute and the Center's proponents claim to be apolitical, but his writings have been used to devastating political effect in the past. Wintemute is the author of the "Ring of Fire" paper, which documented a group of handgun manufacturers in Southern California who made inexpensive "Saturday Night Special" handguns. That report was used as a justification for California politicians to establish the "Not Unsafe Handgun Roster," which severely limits the number of guns Californians are allowed to purchase.
Before their product can be listed on the Roster, gun manufacturers are forced to conduct costly and extensive testing on their guns and pay fees to the California DOJ. If they make any changes - even changes that improve safety or are simply cosmetic - the tests must be performed again and a new fee paid. The state now requires microstamping technology on guns before they can be placed on the roster, a technology which is not commercially available (in Sen. Kevin de Leon's words, one might call it a "ghost technology.).
Due to the inability to meet the microstamping requirement, the number of guns on the Roster is constantly shrinking. And, though the Roster's supposed purpose is increasing the firearm safety, new handguns with the most up-to-date safety features can't be approved because of this obsession California's anti-gunners have with microstamping.
So, California's gun owners are understandably very nervous about what additional infringements on Second Amendment rights might result from Wintemute's "research."
In an interview with the LA Times Friday, Wintemute said one of the first things the Center would look at is determining risk factors that contribute to gun violence.
“At an individual level, those are alcohol and controlled-substance abuse and a prior history of violence. At a structural level, they’re poverty and poor education, lack of opportunity.”
It wouldn't be surprising if, based on the Center's findings on this issue, California legislators added socioeconomic requirements for gun ownership.
In addition to the state funding, if a bill pending in the Assembly passes, Wintemute's organization will be the only one the CA DOJ is required to share its Gun Violence Restraining Order data with. As a result, other researchers who want to independently verify any of his findings will probably not be able to. Under SB 536, the DOJ would have the discretion to deny other researchers access to that data, which is publicly funded. SB 536 has passed the California Senate and is on the Assembly floor awaiting a vote.