Jerry Brown wants stricter federal gun laws, hesitant on California measure

Gov. Jerry Brown is interviewed by CNN at the United Nations climate summit in Le Bourget, France on Dec. 7, 2015
Gov. Jerry Brown is interviewed by CNN at the United Nations climate summit in Le Bourget, France on Dec. 7, 2015 The Sacramento Bee/David Siders

Gov. Jerry Brown called Monday for stricter federal gun laws in the wake of the mass shooting in San Bernardino, while suggesting he has reservations about the use of the ballot measure process to strengthen gun control in California.

“My reaction is that the Legislature has been responsive on this whole matter of regulating and controlling the use of guns,” Brown told CNN in an interview from the United Nations climate conference. “Now, when you do an initiative it tends to get more rigid.”

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom introduced a ballot measure in October that, among other things, would ban the possession of large-capacity magazines.

Brown said that if a gun measure qualified for the ballot, “the Legislature might have a chance to rework it in a way that would both enhance public safety, but also, I think, pay due regard to people’s rights under the Constitution.”

Brown signed legislation last year allowing proponents of ballot initiatives to withdraw a measure if its goal is satisfied by a legislative compromise.

Brown has been cautious to expand California’s gun restrictions, which are among the most stringent in the nation.

Following the rampage at a social services center in San Bernardino, Brown said lenient gun laws in Nevada and Arizona were a “gigantic back door” for potential terrorists, leading to rebukes from the governors of those states.

Authorities have said guns used in the shooting were purchased legally in California before being modified.

On Monday, Brown told CNN it is time “for other states and for the federal government to catch up with California.”

“We have among the strictest gun control regulations in the country, and it doesn’t do us that much good if other states and the federal government is basically passive in this effort to keep guns out of the wrong hands,” he said.

He urged Congress to “get off their partisan seat and do something to protect the American people.”

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval on Sunday joined the governor of Arizona in hitting back California Gov. Jerry Brown’s comments that their states’ lenient gun laws are a “gigantic back door through which any terrorist can walk.”

Sandoval spokeswoman Mari St. Martin said in a prepared statement Sunday that Brown’s remarks were “wrong and irresponsible.”

“This type of political rhetoric is discouraging to hear at a time when all Americans are looking for thoughtful, honest leadership,” she said.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey had previously called on Brown to “retract his incredibly thoughtless and ill-advised comments.”

David Siders: 916-321-1215, @davidsiders