De León Slashes Newsom Staff in Gun Control Spat

Newsom de Leon (Steve Yeater / Associated Press)
Steve Yeater / Associated Press

Two high-ranking California Democrats with higher aspirations for 2018, Gavin Newsom and Kevin de León, are sniping at each other over which one can take the lead in implementing gun control.

Senate leader de León, who may run for lieutenant governor in 2018, introduced a bill in 2014 that would require background checks of ammunition buyers, but the bill failed in the State Assembly. As the California Association of Federal Firearms Licenses reported, “All of Senator de León’s major gun control bills in the 2013-2014 legislative session failed to become law.”

Just recently, Lt. Gov. Newsom, who plans to run for governor in 2018, introduced a 2016 ballot initiative with the same language. Newsom’s action apparently precipitated a small war between the two men, as de León stripped Newsom’s office of two staff members by reassigning two Senate employees.

Jaime Regalado, professor emeritus of political science at Cal State Los Angeles, told the Los Angeles Times, “De León is playing tough. He wants people to know that he can and will be tough if it’s necessary, so don’t cross him. There’s a price to be paid for that.”

Rhys Williams, an advisor to Newsom, said he contacted de León’s office, adding, “They did not proffer a reason” for the reassignment. He stated “When I asked whether it was political, it wasn’t disputed.” He snapped, “It was callous to play with the careers of legislative staff over an issue in which they had no involvement, gun control.”

But on Wednesday, Dan Reeves, de Leon’s chief of staff, told the Times that recalling the staffers had not been a political move, citing “efficiency” concerns.

The two staffers cut from Newsom’s staff currently serve as his office manager and chief economic advisor.