Assm. Rob Bonta with Councilmember Libby Schaaf

Assm. Rob Bonta with Councilmember Libby Schaaf

Cities like Oakland cannot pass or enforce laws where State or Federal laws pre-empt them.

We all remember a recent dramatic illustration of this principle when federal authorities raided licensed, tax-paying medical marijuana dispensaries in Oakland that were legally permitted under city and state law, but purportedly violated federal laws.

A pre-emption issue I’ve been working on is around gun control. Cities like Oakland can’t have their own gun licensing and registration laws because California law preempts it.

Our Assemblymember Rob Bonta took up my suggestion to allow Oakland to have a special emption from this rule. Oakland has a unique problem among California cities with unacceptably high levels of violent gun crimes, many of which are committed with stolen guns.

Bonta’s AB180 would allow Oakland to have stricter gun licensing and registration laws than the limited ones currently imposed by state law. Hopefully, this will result in less violence committed with stolen guns and by people who shouldn’t be allowed to possess guns in the first place (referred to as “prohibited persons” in gun control laws).

Assemblymember Bonta – a recent panelist at my Safe Oakland Speaker Series – has authored several laws intended to curb gun violence. I was honored he invited me to provide the testimony in support of AB180 last Tuesday before the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee.

I explained Oakland’s urgent need to address gun violence – with more than 4,000 gun-related crimes last year alone. AB180 would allow Oakland to quickly remove firearms from prohibited persons and better identify criminals involved in illegal gun trafficking.

Not only did the committee pass the law on to the assembly floor for a full vote, but Oakland’s other Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, signed on to serve as a co-author!

Bonta issued the following statement after the measure passed, “Across our state, communities are suffering from a devastating combination of budget cuts to public safety and coinciding increases in violent crime. No one can deny that Oakland is suffering from among the worst gun violence in the state and in the nation. Oakland suffered from 131 homicides in 2012 – 21 more than 2011 and the highest in six years. Twelve of those victims were children.”

Local law-makers like me may be constrained by the principle of pre-emption, but we can bring these challenges to our allies at the State and Federal level to remove those blocks. In Oakland, we’re lucky to have supportive colleagues like Assemblymembers Bonta and Skinner, who are committed to helping Oaklanders to live under laws that better reflect our local values.

Note: Assemblymember Bonta chairs the Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay, which will hold its first hearing on Friday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Auditorium of the Elihu M. Harris State Building in Oakland (1515 Clay St., in Oakland). Please attend this important hearing.

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. For guidelines, see:

2 Responses

  1. Max Allstadt

    Does anybody actually believe that the people who are using guns to wound, rob and kill in the flatlands of Oakland are going to register their guns if Oakland passes a new ordinance requiring it?

    And if I, as a law-abiding gun owner, register my firearms in compliance with a new Oakland law, and my firearms are stolen, and I report them stolen in compliance with a new Oakland law, how will this stop whoever’s stolen my guns from committing crimes with them?

    None of this makes any sense.

    Speaking of things that don’t make sense: I attended Assemblyman Bonta’s Select Committee on Gun Violence meeting last Friday.

    For three hours, I listened to three different panels talk about their ideas for solutions to gun violence in the East Bay. The overwhelming majority of the speakers talked about investing in job creation, investing in police building trust with youth, and putting efforts into social justice in general.

    People did occasionally mention desires for stronger gun laws, but this was a small percentage of the time, and a small percentage of the speakers.

    Having sat through these speakers, and listened to what they had to say, Assemblymembers Bonta, Skinner and Quirk and State Senator Loni Hancock went outside and hosted a press conference where they spoke in the opposite ratio of everyone who they had invited to the meeting: they barely touched on investment and social programs, and they talked at great length about new gun control legislation.

    When politicians invite community members to give them testimony about what the anti-violence agenda should be, and then those politicians go outside and instead of talking about what they heard, they restate their own pre-existing agenda, can we call that “progressive”? I think not.

  2. Kilo Mike

    Hey Libby,
    Did you read the Bonta bill as amended on 5/2? It allows Oakland to enact an ordinance regulating or licensing firearms. But, it does not allow Oakland to ENFORCE the contemplated ordinance. In fact, the words “and enforce” are struck out in the language of this bill. Hilarious.

    Do you think an ordinance that can’t even be enforced will deter gun violence? I’m sure the GangStars will be shaking in their Jordans.


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