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Gubernatorial Candidates Chiang, Newsom Spar Over Vegas Shooting Comments

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The California State Capitol on September 12, 2017.

Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio

The shooting in Las Vegas immediately led to calls from Democratic officials in California for their federal counterparts to tighten the nation’s gun laws, using the state's laws as a model – and some sparring between two candidates for governor.

It started when state Treasurer John Chiang was asked whether he thinks existing California and national gun laws are enough – or if more are needed.

Chiang pointed to tough new California laws approved last year by the Legislature – and by voters with Proposition 63 – such as background checks on ammunition purchases and bans on rifles with bullet-buttons.

“I don’t want to politicize this, especially this particular time,” Chiang told Capital Public Radio Monday morning after touring a ceramics manufacturing plant in the northeastern Sacramento suburb of Lincoln. “We have to make sure that the laws that we have enacted, we follow through on them to make sure that we take action to prevent similar types of circumstances here.”

That response drew a slam from Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who on Twitter compared Chiang’s “I don’t want to politicize this” line to an NRA talking point – and even linked Chiang to President Donald Trump.

Newsom, who led the Yes on Proposition 63 campaign and has angered Second Amendment advocates with his calls for tighter gun controls, called for other states to follow California’s lead.

Chiang’s campaign later clarified that he also views California as a model for federal legislation, including mandatory background checks and banning automatic weapons.

“This is not the time to be trying to score political points, but coming together to grieve for our nation's loss, support their families and redouble our resolve to fight for better and tougher gun laws,” said Chiang spokeswoman Kate Chapek.

“Saying that we can’t talk about gun violence after mass shootings are exactly the talking points of the NRA and politicians like Donald Trump who do their bidding – and it’s wrong,” responded Newsom spokesman Dan Newman. “There’s no more important time to talk about doing everything we can to save lives than when we’re forced to see the horrific effects of gun violence.”

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