SACRAMENTO (AP) — Debate in the Assembly turned personal Monday when a Democratic lawmaker introduced an airport security bill that many interpreted as a jab at a Republican colleague who was caught bringing a loaded gun through airport security earlier this year.
The bill, which would require law enforcement officers to arrest anyone bringing a concealed gun into an airport, sparked partisan name-calling and accusations of dishonesty.
"Who's next? Whose next mistake is going to be brought up in a bill in this chamber?" asked Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries, R-Lake Elsinore.
Assemblyman Brian Jones, R-Santee, called the bill "an insult to the citizens of California," while Assemblyman Donald Wagner, R-Irivine, called it an embarrassment"
Democratic Assemblywoman Norma Torres, of Pomona, said she wrote AB2182 as a public safety measure. Her Southern California district borders that of Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who was stopped in January at Ontario International Airport while carrying a loaded handgun in his carry-on luggage.
"This bill is about the irresponsible gun owner who doesn't know where their weapon is," Torres said on the floor.
Donnelly, from the mountain community of Twin Peaks, raised his microphone, eliciting catcalls on the floor, but did not speak during the debate. He later said he did not want to add heat to the debate over a bill he thought was a disgrace to the institution of the Legislature.
The bill passed 46-25 Monday, with Donnelly voting no, and now goes to the Senate.
Donnelly, an outspoken advocate for gun rights, said he was being punished by Assembly Democrats for an innocent mistake.
"I think some of my colleagues just institutionalized the absolute utter contempt with which the public holds us," he said in an interview after the floor session. "And their vote today confirms that they should be held in contempt."
Donnelly has said he was carrying the gun that ended up at the airport because he had received death threats over his opposition to illegal immigration and wanted protection when he was home alone. He said he hid it in his briefcase so his wife would not be alarmed when she came home, then forgot it was there.
Not long after police cited and released the lawmaker, another passenger was arrested after he tried to bring four loaded guns through a security checkpoint at the Sacramento airport.
Donnelly was fined $2,215 for two misdemeanor charges related to the incident: illegally carrying a loaded firearm and possessing a prohibited item in a secure area of Ontario International Airport. The airport is in Torres' district.