The January shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona shocked and disturbed the nation, but one group is, perhaps justifiably, more freaked out by the incident than any other: elected officials. In response, bills have been introduced in such states as Montana and even in Congress that would make it easier for lawmakers to pack heat — the idea being that if politicians are armed, they can shoot back at a constituent who pulls a gun. This is the kind of over-the-top reaction one would expect in conservative, gun-friendly states, but when the trend hits California, some eye-rolling is in order.
Three state legislators have coauthored a bill that would make it easier for California elected officials to obtain a concealed weapons permit. Under current law, police chiefs or county sheriffs can award such permits to applicants who show "good cause" for needing one, meaning they have a dangerous job or their lives are under threat. The bill, SB 610, says the good-cause determination would be deemed to be met for any California member of Congress, statewide elected official or member of the Legislature.
The surprising thing about this bill isn't just that it has appeared in California, which tends to favor restrictive gun laws, but that its coauthors are all Democrats who in the past have voted to limit gun rights for ordinary citizens. SB 610 was introduced by Sen. Roderick Wright of Inglewood, who in 2009 voted for a bill limiting the ability of residents from rural counties to use their gun-carry permits in large urban counties; another coauthor, Assemblywoman Cathleen Galgiani of Tracy, voted for the same bill. The third, Sen. Lou Correa of Santa Ana, voted for a Galgiani bill last year prohibiting the carrying of even unloaded firearms in the state Capitol.