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Will Alameda’s Rob Bonta Save Assault Weapons Ban and Make His Mark?

Instead of strengthening or fixing the law, federal judge Roger Benitez, a Bush appointee based in Southern California, just declared it unconstitutional on June 4.

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When was the last time you heard about an assault weapon wreaking havoc in California? How about two weeks ago in San Jose when nine innocent lives were lost when they were shot and killed by a disgruntled white male who had a problem with diversity. 

Technically, the weapon used wasn’t an assault rifle, but a 9mm pistol jacked up with a high capacity magazine. Still, it’s illegal in California. The point is, there are laws and there are loopholes. But it’s no reason to get rid of California’s assault weapons ban, the first such law in the nation. 

Instead of strengthening or fixing the law, federal judge Roger Benitez, a Bush appointee based in Southern California, just declared it unconstitutional on June 4.

And now, the ban that Asian Americans as victims brought 32 years ago in California will need the new Asian American Filipino attorney general to show his true mettle to make sure he reverses the judge and stays the law.

Bet you didn’t know there even was such a ban in California? Yep, and in states like New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, and Massachusetts, as well as Wash., D.C.

There was even a ban in place for a brief time nationwide.

The pro-gun logic of the judge essentially was that since people in other states could get assault weapons and the ban hasn’t stopped mass shootings, what good was the law? “A 30-year-old failed experiment,” said Benitez, who called the AR-15 assault weapons “fairly ordinary, popular modern rifles.” For example, the law allowed those who owned assault weapons before the ban to register their guns. To date, there are 185,569 assault weapons in the state even with a ban.

But popularity doesn’t make them benign.

Benitez even compared the AR-15 to a Swiss Army knife as “a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment.”

That’s such a strange comparison.

I have a small Swiss Army knife that comes with a toothpick and tweezers. I’ve never seen an AR-15 come with either. Does that make the SA knife the superior tool?

Of course, you’re not really looking to pick the spinach off anyone’s teeth, nor pluck a splinter from a finger, with an AR-15. It’s a weapon with one purpose— to kill. And keep killing. Fast.

Not just one, but many. E pluribus Mass Shootings.

That makes the comparison to a Swiss Army anything absurd. But the judge piled it on. He added that knives kill seven times more people in California than rifles do. Maybe. But around the nation, assault rifles are the death-per-minute king.

The AR-15 was used at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, when 49 people were killed. In Las Vegas, an AR-15 was used to kill 58 people at an outdoor concert in 2017.

Imagine the killings in California if the state ban wasn’t in place. That’s an unknowable statistic. But the most important one. 

Without the ban, is there any doubt deaths by assault rifles would rise? More assault rifles. More incidents. More deaths per minute. 

Asian Victims Brought on Ban

The reason we have the law in the first place was because of a school shooting in 1989 in Stockton when Patrick Purdy killed five children of Southeast Asian refugees and wounded 30 others.

Purdy, a 25-year-old unemployed welder was reported to have said he hated Vietnamese immigrants, whom he believed were stealing jobs from native-born Americans. He was also fond of carrying a book from the white supremacy group, Aryan Nations.

That was his book of choice. But his gun of choice was an assault-style weapon, not the AR-15, but a Chinese-made AK-47. On Jan. 17, 1989, Purdy went to the Cleveland School and fired 106 rounds in three minutes, before taking a pistol and shooting himself in the head.

Because of that crime, the state passed the nation’s first assault weapons ban, signed by a Republican governor, George Deukmejian. What a different time. It seems like such a normal reaction. Nowadays, the deaths at Sandy Hook or Parkland  schools aren’t enough to get any law passed, and we fight over gadgets that make regular guns emulate semi-automatic weapons. 

Bonta to the Rescue?

Enter Rob Bonta, Oakland’s former state Assemblyman, a little more than a month into his new job as state Attorney General. He’s called the decision “fundamentally flawed” and now has 30 days to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. From there, whatever the decision, the case will likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court to weigh in on the constitutional right to have assault weapons.

I imagine the six conservative justices are dying to inject some steroids into the Second Amendment.

But this could also be the case where Bonta, the pride of the Filipino American community, gets to showcase his mettle on a national scale. After just being appointed, he’s already thrust into campaign mode and has at least one strong victims’ rights candidate, vying for his job.

This could be a big-time moment for him and for us. Let’s hope he’s up for the polarizing fight against a gun lobby that twists the 2nd Amendment and forces us to live with unwanted and excessive violence.

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Commentary: May Is Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander Heritage Month

AANHPI is not a social term; it’s purely political, a Frankenstein acronym that reeks of inclusion, and yet there’s so much more of us we don’t see in the name. In fact, the top three groups are Chinese, Indian and Filipino. We’re “Chindipinos.” It makes AANHPI more like a prompt to make sure we don’t forget the incredible potential of our large, diverse community.

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By Emil Guillermo

AANHPI is not a social term; it’s purely political, a Frankenstein acronym that reeks of inclusion, and yet there’s so much more of us we don’t see in the name. In fact, the top three groups are Chinese, Indian and Filipino. We’re “Chindipinos.”

It makes AANHPI more like a prompt to make sure we don’t forget the incredible potential of our large, diverse community.

Across the United States, we’re more than 25 million strong. As I like to point out, it really should include West Asians, like Arab Americans, at around 5 million people. That would boost the group to around 30 million- plus.

How can U.S. policy makers ignore a coalition of 30 million people that have all of Asia as their common ground? They can’t.

Unless we don’t vote.

THE AANHPI POWER YEAR

Around 15 million Asian Americans are projected to be eligible to vote in 2024. This is an increase of 15% from 2020, according to the Pew Research Center. That’s a larger projected increase than for Hispanics (12%) and Blacks (7%).

A lot of talk this year has centered so far on Black and Hispanic voters defecting from the Democrats in 2024. There’s hardly any talk about the Asian American vote. But any change there could be significant.

Seventy-two percent of English-speaking, single race, non-Hispanic Asian voters went for Joe Biden in 2020 vs. 28% who voted for Donald Trump, according to Pew.

Will we see Asian Americans continue to show up for Biden at the 72%level, or will that number erode?

Hopefully, Biden’s Asian American numbers may go higher if the Republican voters in our broad community (around 30%) understand what’s at stake and abandon Trump.

The list of Biden White House initiatives to help Asian Americans is long.

On the other hand, think about how Donald Trump treated his lone Asian American cabinet member, Elaine Chao, and see if that isn’t reason alone for MAGA-AANHPIs to dump Trump, the indicted one.

Here are some other key things about Asian American eligible voters that are worth noting.

We’re 6% of the electorate, which means as a bloc, it has the potential to be a real swing vote.

When you see poll numbers at a dead heat with the margin of error at 3-5%, imagine Asian Americans making up the difference to provide a margin of victory.

That’s how critical our vote is.

Gender-wise, the demographic breakdown is also significant: 53% women and 47% men. Which party has women’s best interests at heart?

By age, 22% of us are 18-29 years old. The biggest demo is 30-49 at 36%. Add ages 50-64 at 23%, and the core 30-64 working age demo is almost 60% of our community.

The majority of us are also naturalized citizens, 56%, vs. U.S born at 44%.

For me this is always where I see some of the biggest fissures within our community. Who was pushing for affirmative action and who was against? Naturalized citizens, immigrants generally led the fight against affirmative action. It remains a flash point. Might it also define a new dividing line between Asian American red and blue?

So, this month, AANHPI Heritage Month, take the time to notice and get to know us better.

About the Author

Emil Guillermo is a journalist and commentator, and was the first Filipino to host a national news program while at NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Contact him at www.amok.com.

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Oakland Post: Week of May 15 – 21, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May May 15 – 21, 2024

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Oakland Post: Week of May 8 – 14, 2024

The printed Weekly Edition of the Oakland Post: Week of May May 8 – 14, 2024

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