Are California Leaders Willfully Blind on the Need for Guns Against Terrorists?

Are California Leaders Willfully Blind on the Need for Guns Against Terrorists?

California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed scores of new gun-control measures in Sacramento, Calif., on Sept. 26, 2023. (Courtesy of Office of Governor Gavin Newsom)

John Seiler

John Seiler


Updated: 10/29/2023

There’s naïve. And there’s willfully blind.
In my Oct. 17 article in The Epoch Times, “California Gun Control Makes It Harder to Fight Back Against Hamas-Like Terrorism,” I pointed out Gov. Gavin Newsom was naïve for “criticizing Judge Roger Benitez’s ruling that day striking down California’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 rounds.”
Mr. Newsom branded them “weapons of war.” I pointed out the Oct. 7 terrorist attack by Hamas against Israel showed how Americans’ Second Amendment right “to keep and bear arms” is more crucial than ever.
Judge Benitez on Oct. 19 again struck down a California gun-control law as unconstitutional. This time it was a ban on so-called “assault weapons.” On the same day, Mr. Newsom attacked the new decision, again using his favorite phrase, “weapons of war.” He said, “Californians’ elected representatives decided almost 35 years ago that weapons of war have no place in our communities. Today, Judge Benitez decided that he knows better, public safety be damned.”
And Attorney General Rob Bonta, who is appealing both cases, also on Oct. 19 used the same phrase: “Weapons of war have no place on California’s streets. This has been state law in California for decades, and we will continue to fight for our authority to keep our citizens safe from firearms that cause mass casualties. In the meantime, assault weapons remain unlawful for purchase, transfer, or possession in California.”
In his decision, Judge Benitez always uses “weapons of war” inside quote marks, and pointed out, “Other than their looks (the State calls them ‘features’ or ‘accessories’) these prohibited rifles are virtually the same as other lawfully possessed rifles. They have the same minimum overall length, they use the same triggers, they have the same barrels, and they can fire the same ammunition, from the same magazines, at the same rate of fire, and at the same velocities, as other rifles. What is it, then, that animates the State’s criminalization of possessing certain rifles as ‘assault weapons’? It is that similar rifles have been used in some mass shootings and that by virtue of this law, the legislature hoped to keep these modern weapons out of the hands of mass shooters.”
At issue is last year’s Bruen decision, in which the U.S. Supreme Court, among other things, clearly affirmed an individual right for a person to bear arms in public, allowing only reasonable exceptions, such as banning carrying guns in a courtroom. Mr. Bonta cited the case, “The Supreme Court was clear that Bruen did not create a regulatory straitjacket for states. Once again, this district court issued a dangerous and misguided decision and I will work vigorously to reverse it on appeal. We will not stop in our efforts to protect the safety of communities to live without fear of becoming victims of gun violence, while at the same time respecting the Second Amendment rights of law-abiding gun owners.”
An AR-15 rifle at FT3 tactical shooting range in Stanton, Calif., on May 3, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

An AR-15 rifle at FT3 tactical shooting range in Stanton, Calif., on May 3, 2021. (John Fredricks/The Epoch Times)

But Judge Benitez dealt with that position in his decision, directly quoting Bruen, “The Second Amendment, the Court said, ‘is the very product of an interest balancing by the people and it surely elevates above all other interests the right of law-abiding, responsible citizens to use arms for self-defense.’ It is ‘this balance—struck by the traditions of the American people—that demands our unqualified deference.’ The American tradition is rich and deep in protecting a citizen’s enduring right to keep and bear common arms like rifles, shotguns, and pistols.
“However, among the American tradition of firearm ownership, there is nothing like California’s prohibition on rifles, shotguns, and handguns based on their looks or attributes. Here, the ‘assault weapon’ prohibition has no historical pedigree and it is extreme. Even today, neither Congress nor most states impose such prohibitions on modern semiautomatic arms. In contrast, laws that punish criminal acts committed with any gun, like the crime of assault with a deadly weapon, remain perfectly constitutional. Those criminal laws are not at issue here.”
In his conclusion, Judge Benitez wrote, “California’s answer to the criminal misuse of a few is to disarm its many good residents. That knee-jerk reaction is constitutionally untenable, just as it was 250 years ago. The Second Amendment stands as a shield from government imposition of that policy.”

Gov. Newsom in Israel

Ironically, shortly after the Benitez decision and Mr. Newsom’s attack on it, the governor traveled to Israel on his way to China, as I reported in my Oct. 25 article, “Newsom Junket Appeases Communist China.” He properly decried the Hamas attack that, according to the latest estimates, killed 1,400 people, 31 of them Americans, and in which 224 hostages were taken.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 20, 2023. (Courtesy of the Office of the Governor of California)

California Gov. Gavin Newsom visits Tel Aviv Sourasky Medical Center in Tel Aviv, Israel on Oct. 20, 2023. (Courtesy of the Office of the Governor of California)

The Israel Defense Forces are an excellent military, but it can’t protect every home. Unfortunately, Israel had strong gun control, leaving its people disarmed. According to gun scholar John Lott, only 3 percent of adult Israelis held gun permits, down from 9 percent a decade ago. Perhaps Mr. Newsom heard that during his Oct. 20 stop in Israel on his way to China. In America, outside of California and New York, about 10 percent of adults own firearms.
On Sept. 20, just 17 days before the attack, the Jerusalem Post warned, “Israelis should carry guns on Yom Kippur, police say.” Yom Kippur was Sept. 24–25. Fatefully, on Oct. 7, Israelis were celebrating the holiday of Simchat Torah.
Then on Oct. 8, the day after the attack, Israeli Minister of National Security Itamar Ben-Gvir announced, “Today I directed the Firearms Licensing Division to go on an emergency operation in order to allow as many citizens as possible to arm themselves.”

Terrorists in the US?

Mr. Newsom and Mr. Bonta may have been naïve before Oct. 7. Now they might be willfully blind. Now Californians clearly need “weapons of war.” Because the war could erupt any minute right in their neighborhoods.
On Oct. 25, Mark Tapscott wrote in the Epoch Times: “U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials must assume that hundreds of Iranian-funded and -directed terrorist operatives with Hamas, Hezbollah, and similar groups are in the United States and can carry out lethal attacks across this country as soon as Iran gives them the green light, according to witnesses who testified at an Oct. 25 House Committee on Homeland Security hearing.
“The committee’s chairman, Rep. Mark Green (R-Tenn.), asked former Ambassador Nathan Sales, ‘What guarantees do we have’ that Hamas and other Iranian-backed terrorists aren’t among the more than 1.7 million illegal immigrant ‘gotaways’ that have crossed the southern U.S. border since 2021.
“‘I don’t think we have any guarantees, Mr. Chairman. I think we have to assume the worst,’ Mr. Sales replied. ‘We know that Iranian-linked terrorists have been found in the United States.’
“He pointed out that, prior to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack from Gaza on Israel, ‘128 Hezbollah operatives have been arrested here over the years by the FBI.’ Hezbollah, like Hamas, is funded, equipped, and directed by Iran’s radical Islamic regime.
“‘Within that population of however many millions or hundreds of thousands of known gotaways, we should not assume that they are all perfectly clean,’ Mr. Sales said.”
California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

California Attorney General Rob Bonta speaks during a press conference in Sacramento, Calif., on Feb. 1, 2023. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Who Will Be Responsible?

God forbid such an attack occurs in California. But if it does, it could be argued that both Mr. Newsom and Mr. Bonta would bear some responsibility. They not only have backed President Biden’s open-borders policy, but have backed coddling illegal aliens already here.
On Sept. 24, 2021, Mr. Newsom released a statement on his signing a “series of bills”: “Governor Newsom’s California Comeback Plan makes historic investments regardless of immigration status, offering an additional $1,000 in stimulus checks to undocumented families through the expanded Golden State Stimulus. ... The California Comeback Plan also enacts a first-in-the-nation expansion of Medi-Cal to undocumented Californians over 50 years old, providing access to critical health care services.”
Such giveaways also go to the “gotaways,” subsidizing those who have come here in violation of our laws, thus encouraging others to come here illegally. And some of those “gotaways,” as Ambassador Sales said, well could be Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists—receiving California taxpayers’ money and using it to buy “weapons of war.”

Conclusion: Is California Safe?

So the Newsom-Bonta plan is to disarm Californians, even as they use Californian’s tax money to subsidize potential terrorists. They brand such self-defense tools “weapons of war,” but what happens when the “war” comes to your neighborhood? It might seem California is a safe place.
But Israelis thought they were safe, too, on Oct. 6. Israel has found out the hard way that, as a free country, it needs to trust its own law-abiding citizens to arm themselves against the lawless, whether common criminals or terrorists. That’s a lesson Mr. Bonta and Mr. Newsom need to learn.
John Seiler

John Seiler


John Seiler is a veteran California opinion writer. Mr. Seiler has written editorials for The Orange County Register for almost 30 years. He is a U.S. Army veteran and former press secretary for California state Sen. John Moorlach. He blogs at and his email is

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