The battle over gun and ammunition regulation in California is escalating.
Gun violence prevention advocates say it’s saving lives, while gun rights supporters argue it’s regulation overkill.
Experts expect the case that is challenging state law requiring background checks for purchasing ammunition to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. For Bradley Stolfi, he supports common sense gun regulation.
“I think every firearm should require a background check and it should be thorough,” said Stolfi.
But a state law implemented in 2019 requiring in-person background checks for ammunition isn’t one of them.
“If you ask me if it was something that made shooting difficult, yes it was,” said Stolfi.
Stolfi is using a World War 2 era M-1 carbine for target practice.
“The imposition of needing a background check, and vendors not wanting to send ammunition to California, it became problematic for me to find this ammunition for this rifle with ease,” said Stolfi.
The Cloverdale resident has been buying gun powder and primers to hand load cartridges for many of his rifles since the tighter ammo restrictions were put in place.
“That incurred a substantial cost in all the materials I needed to do it,” said Stolfi.
Many hunters and gun owners say the restrictions violate their 2nd amendment right to bear arms. A federal judge recently agreed, overturning the law.
But days later, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-to-1 vote put a hold on that ruling.
“We have seen a California that is a far safer place today than it was 30 years ago. Background checks work for firearms. Background checks work for ammunition,” said Steve Lindley.
Lindley has a law enforcement background, and now works for Brady United Against Gun Violence.
“We’re not trying to prevent anybody from purchasing a firearm or purchasing ammunition. What we’re trying to do is keeping firearms and ammunition out of the hands of people who are prohibited or are a danger to our communities,” said Lindley.
“There’s a small number of people out there that shouldn’t have access to ammunition, and that’s more of a problem than is being addressed by just making it more difficult to get the ammunition,” said Stolfi.
The stay issued by the Court of Appeals means background checks for ammunition can once again proceed for now.
“Background checks, safe storage, those type of things all compounded together, make a significant difference,” said Lindley.
But Stolfi believes rather than making it more difficult to purchase ammunition, banning high-capacity magazines, would have more of an impact in saving lives.
“I don’t see any need for any magazine to be able to hold more than 10. That’s going to get me in a lot of trouble with guys I know, but that’s what I think,” said Stolfi.
Stolfi is aiming to find that balance between restrictions and gun rights enshrined in the Constitution.
California Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, posted on X saying the ruling by the court of appeals means the state’s “life-saving ammunition laws will remain in effect as we continue to defend them in court.”
It’s unclear when the case will be heard.
However the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals rules, legal experts say the case will likely reach the U.S. Supreme Court.
California Facing Three Days Of ‘Extremely Dangerous’ Blizzard Conditions In Sierra Nevada—Up To 12 Feet Of Snow
Forecasters are warning California residents not to travel in the Sierra Nevada mountains for the next three days, as a potentially historic blizzard that could last through Saturday threatens a large region with up to 12 feet of snow and devastating winds.
Northern and eastern California will see heavy to extremely heavy snowfall on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, forecasters at the National Weather Service said, as well as heavy rainfall and wind gusts up to 60 miles per hourâcreating three days of hazardous blizzard conditions.
The storm is expected to weaken by Sunday, but snow showers are still possible in the Sierra Nevadaâs mountaintops through Monday, the agency said.
The blizzard conditions are expected to extend as far east as Lake Tahoe and parts of Nevadaâincluding Reno and other parts of Washoe County, which could see up to 10 inches of snow by Sunday.
In total, California is expected to see 1 to 4 feet of snow in areas above 3000 feet, 5 to 10 feet above 5,000 feet, and 12 feet or more on the Sierra Nevadaâs mountaintops.
The NWS is warning travelers of âextremely dangerous to impossible travel conditionsâ throughout roads in the region, which could see white-outs with near zero visibility, as well as tree damage and power outages caused by winds.
The storm system entered the Pacific Northwest and crossed the state border into northern California early on Thursday morning, the NWS station in Sacramento said in an update on X.
The current storm will likely be the largest California has seen so far this year, but it comes on the heels of a historic year for snow in the Golden State. In water year 2023, California recorded its second-snowiest winter on record, with over 700 inches over the course of the season. The historic snowfall caused avalanches, flooding and mudslides, but also improved drought conditions for many parts of the state. Compared to last yearâs winter season, the Sierra Nevada has experienced a significant snow drought, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported in their most recent update on the state. As of February 15, most of the mountain range was reporting less than 70% of its normal snow water equivalent. However, a recent series of storms have added significant amounts of snow to the mountain range, the Los Angeles Times reported last week, and this weekendâs storm is expected to add even more to that total.
California is not the only part of the United States expecting early March snow this year. Central New York is also bracing for potential blizzard conditions on Thursday as lake-effect snow and high winds threaten Rochester and Syracuse. Forecasters at the NWS are currently predicting the area will see between 6 to 11 inches of snow over the course of the day. That snow will be blown onto roadways by wind gusts up to 40 miles per hour, which will create âvery difficultâ travel conditions. A small craft advisory was also issued for the coast of Lake Ontario, which could see waves as large as 9 to 12 feet and more heavy winds up to 34 miles per hour until Friday morning.
A billionaire-backed campaign for a new California city is off to a bumpy start
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — After two false starts, the billionaires behind a plan to build an eco-friendly city from scratch are behind schedule and off to a bumpy start to put their proposal before California voters this November.
Former Goldman Sachs trader Jan Sramek unveiled his closely guarded ballot initiative for the proposed community between San Francisco and Sacramento in January, a plan that envisions 20,000 homes, transit infrastructure, schools, jobs and green space for an initial 50,000 residents. He has since amended it twice to address concerns raised by Solano County and a neighboring U.S. Air Force base.
Thursday is the deadline for the county counsel’s office to give the ballot initiative a title and summary, which will allow signature gatherers to hit the streets in search of the 13,000 they need — and preferably thousands more as a cushion. The delays mean the campaign has just two months, not three, to collect signatures if they want to give elections officials the maximum time to verify them.
“You get into this math game of time and availability of people to sign your petition,” said Jim Ross, a veteran Democratic political consultant based in Oakland. “Losing a month is a big deal.”
But Brian Brokaw, a spokesperson for the campaign, said he is confident about making the Nov. 5 ballot.
“We’ve been walking a line of making sure we get this right and also realizing that the clock is ticking,” he said. “At the same time, we believe that the amendments that we made to the measure will significantly help increase our chances of success in November, and it was definitely worth the additional time that it cost us to get it right.”
Sramek needs Solano County voters to allow urban development on rural land his company has stealthily purchased since 2018 for at least $800 million to build what he’s pitched as a walkable community for up to 400,000 residents with a cute downtown, good-paying jobs and affordable homes. The state desperately needs more housing, especially affordable units.
Sramek has not said how much he’s prepared to spend on the effort. His California Forever company can count on the deep pockets of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, including philanthropist Laurene Powell Jobs and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
But lots of money doesn’t always translate to ballot success — in 2022, California voters rejected two efforts to expand gambling despite at least $460 million spent by supporters.
Critics say the delays are on par for an unorthodox campaign that operated in secrecy for years, eschewed local input and now wants to break ground on agricultural land voters chose to protect from urbanization back in 1984.
“What we see from that is a bit of oversight in their process of actually engaging folks,” said Sadie Wilson, planning and research director at Greenbelt Alliance. The environmental advocacy group is part of Solano Together, a coalition that includes farming and open space interests and environmental groups.
Opponents of the plan say it makes flashy promises but is shockingly light on details.
The sustainable way to build more housing is within existing city limits, Wilson said, rather than plunking an enormous development on 27 square miles (70 square kilometers) of land in a county of 450,000 people with sensitive ecosystems and an already strained water supply.
Locals had wondered for years who had snapped up parcels containing cattle and wind farms. They were stunned to learn last summer that Sramek and his Silicon Valley investors wanted it for a new development — not yet named — that could become a city or remain part of the county.
Sramek then went on something of an apology tour, including meeting with two irate congressmen who had sought for years to find out whether foreign adversaries or investors were behind the land purchases between Travis Air Force Base and the Sacramento River Delta city of Rio Vista. Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson still oppose the project.
In January, Sramek held a news conference to outline the ballot initiative, filed it with the county elections office and then withdrew it — all on the same day — after county officials requested language clarifying the process.
California Forever could have avoided this had the campaign shared its proposal with local officials ahead of time, said Ross, the consultant. “It’s very much an outsider approach,” he said.
Bernadette Curry, counsel for Solano County, said officials asked for technical changes to clarify that the county had discretion to approve a development agreement with the company before it can build. Previously the initiative contained language requiring approval by the county supervisors.
The initiative specifies that the development agreement will include the 10 guarantees made by California Forever, such as $400 million to help county residents and Travis Air Force Base families buy homes in the community and $200 million for the county’s existing downtowns. An environmental impact review would also be required.
The campaign withdrew its initiative again after base officials raised concerns including its ability to conduct flight operations. The revised initiative establishes a larger buffer area between the development and the base.
There is no firm deadline for submitting signatures, said John Gardner, the county’s assistant registrar of voters. But the Solano County Board of Supervisors has only until Aug. 8 to approve its inclusion on the ballot, and elections officials have between 30 and 90 days to verify signatures.
That 90-day window means the campaign would need to submit its paperwork by early May.
Wilson, of Solano Together, said the approach taken by California Forever raises national questions about how decisions are made about development, farmland and climate resilience — and who gets to circumvent the rules.
“This really deserves greater attention because of the wave this brings,” she said, “and the precedent that it could set for other places around the country.”
Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Dodd issues strong opposition to California Forever’s megacity plan
California Forever officials have gained a new major opponent to their hopes to build a community in rural eastern Solano County.
State Sen. Bill Dodd on Wednesday came out firmly against the plan backed by several high-tech Bay Area billionaires and their vision to create a new community of up to 400,000 people between Fairfield and Rio Vista.
In a press statement, Dodd, a Democrat who represents the 3rd state Senate District, which includes Solano County, characterized the California Forever proposal as “deeply flawed and irresponsible suburban sprawl with the potential to displace farmers, worsen traffic congestion and hamper national security operations at the adjacent Travis Air Force Base.”
“I’ve been skeptical since Day One, but reserved my judgment as I gathered more facts,” Dodd said in the prepared statement. “It is now crystal clear to me that this project is bad for Solano County.”
“This group of mega-rich developers from Silicon Valley are trying to steamroll the surrounding community, bypassing a proper, thorough vetting which they know they can’t pass,” he added. “What they’re proposing will drastically and irreversibly alter the area. It’s not right, and it’s time for all those who value thoughtful policymaking and Solano County’s future to stand up against it.”
With his formal statement of opposition, Dodd joins other elected officials who have gone on record to oppose the plan. The list includes U.S. Reps. John Garamendi and Mike Thompson, both Democrats representing Solano County, Fairfield Mayor Catherine Moy; and Suisun City Mayor Pro Tem Princess Washington.
Opponents cite several problems with the California Forever proposal, among them traffic impacts, loss of agricultural land, interference with Travis Air Force Base, and a lack of detailed plans and more firm commitments.
Among the Silicon Valley billionaires who funded the land-buying spree, spending an estimated $900 million, are Michael Moritz, a venture capitalist; Reid Hoffman, the investor and co-founder of LinkedIn; and Laurene Powell Jobs, the founder of the Emerson Collective and the widow of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs. Under California Forever and CEO Jan Sramek, they have become the largest landowner in the county, with acreage twice the size of San Francisco.
Dodd’s opposition statement comes as Sramek, a native of the Czech Republic, and California Forever have formally filed a proposed ballot initiative for the Nov. 5 general election. It aims to ask Solano voters to amend a longstanding “orderly growth” ordinance that protects Solano farms and open space by directing development to existing urban areas.
The initiative, which has been revised twice, must be reviewed by county officials before the voter signature process begins. Should the proposed ballot reach the fall ballot and pass, the company would then be subject to a development agreement with Solano County and environmental review.
In mid-February, Reps. Thompson and Garamendi made clear in a press conference what the implications of California Forever’s ballot initiative would mean.
“Don’t build in this area,” Garamendi said. “Period.”
The words came on the heels of California Forever’s third filing of its initiative, rewritten to provide a greater buffer for the base, proposing “Travis Compatible Infrastructure” in the westernmost portion of the proposed new community.
Garamendi and Thompson, however, did not hedge their words, saying they’re still not buying what California Forever has to sell. They don’t think Solano County voters should either — if the initiative makes the ballot.
“I have very serious concerns about what is going on,” Thompson said. “This company has come in and purchased about a billion dollars worth of property, and did it under a veil of secrecy.”
Concerns about base security were raised by both men, but a statement from a spokesperson from the base’s 60th Air Mobility Wing, released later in the day, indicated that the base will be able to continue flying all of its missions and operations.
“California Forever made significant changes to its plans in order to protect Travis’ global mission and local flight operations,” according to the statement’s wording. “With this revised proposal, Travis AFB will be able to continue flying its full mission, including all of our operational, exercise, and local training flights consisting of multiple patterns and landings to all runways, including night vision goggle training to the assault landing zone (ALZ) runway.”
The statement indicated that the base reached out to California Forever in early February with concerns about its land use in the northwestern segment of the proposed new community, and the revised plan addressed those concerns.
Reporter Staff Writer Nick McConnell contributed to this report.
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