Anti-gun California State Senator Leland Yee, facing federal corruption charges that include gun trafficking, was honored in 2006 by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for his gun control efforts, and yesterday, he dropped out of the race for California Secretary of State, the San Francisco Chronicle first reported.
And last night, Alan Gottlieb, the Bellevue-based gun rights advocate who was first to criticize Yee’s apparent hypocrisy, became the new bogeyman for a Seattle-based gun prohibition group that is using his image in a fund-raising e-mail invitation to attend another “campaign kickoff” on Monday, June 2. This is for Initiative 594, the 18-page gun control measure being pandered as a “universal background check” proposal. Critics say it goes much farther.
UPDATE: The California State Senate late Friday morning voted to suspend Yee, and fellow Democrat Senators Ron Calderon and Rod Wright, with pay, "until all criminal proceedings currently pending against them have been dismissed," according to the Sacramento Bee's Capitol Alert. The vote was 28-1.
The newspaper quoted Senate leader Darrel Steinberg, who explained, "Expelling them would be premature, because Yee and Calderon have not been convicted of their corruption charges and Wright is waiting to see if the judge in his perjury trial upholds the jury's guilty verdict."
The irony of Yee's case is not lost on Gottlieb, chairman of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms. He told Examiner via e-mail after seeing the announcement from the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility (WAGR), that the new battle cry for the gun prohibition lobby should be “Guns for Yee, but not for thee.”
Gottlieb is the standard-bearer for Protect Our Gun Rights (POGR), which is backing Initiative 591, the simple measure that prevents government gun confiscation without due process – a’la warrantless post-Hurricane Katrina gun seizures – while protecting the state’s current adherence to the uniform national standard for background checks.
In its fund raising invitation to the noonday June 2 event – an hour at which, quipped POGR campaign treasurer Philip Watson, “I think most of us 'normal' people will actually be at work” – the WAGR e-mail complained that I-594 was not adopted by the Legislature because of gun lobbyists “like this guy.” Gottlieb’s image appears next to that notation.
Gottlieb is taking it in stride, asking tongue-in-cheek, “Who is that guy in the bow tie?” The bow tie is a widely-recognized Gottlieb style trademark.
While Gottlieb is getting a chuckle, gun prohibitionists are seriously embarrassed over Yee’s arrest Wednesday. Sen. Yee was one of California’s most outspoken gun control proponents. According to yesterday’s Washington Post, gun control groups are now “scrambling for someone to pick up that mantle.” That was how Paul Song, executive chairman of the Courage Campaign, put it.
“If it wasn’t so sad it would be comical. But what we’re really worried about is that this will further destroy the momentum for gun control here in California,” Song told the newspaper.
Sources in California concur with Song’s assessment. Mention gun control in Sacramento right now and one may as well be offering a cup full of toxic waste.
But a paragraph in the San Jose Mercury News brought a new perspective that seems to escape so many people about gun laws and criminal activity, probably unintentionally. The Mercury News story is about political corruption and campaign finance, and how such laws did not prevent what Yee is alleged to have done.
“Some critics have called the Capitol a cesspool because current campaign finance laws aren't tight enough,” the newspaper reported. “But Yee allegedly showed little regard for a host of existing laws. And a package of ethics reforms introduced earlier this month -- after Sens. Ron Calderon and Roderick Wright ran afoul of the law -- wouldn't have prevented what Yee allegedly did.”
Gun rights advocates have said the same thing for years about restrictive gun laws that only affect law-abiding citizens. Someone intent on wrongdoing is not going to be deterred by a new law.
Fallout from Yee’s arrest could spread well beyond California, as it calls into question the character of the gun control movement. Yee is not the only gun control crusader to apparently run afoul of gun laws. However, the allegations against Yee suggest a monumental hypocrisy. When he was honored by the Brady Campaign in 2006, earning an “A+” grade for “working against gun violence,” Yee said in a statement that he was “proud to stand up against the gun industry.”
Last October, when Yee was pressing for tougher gun laws related to so-called “assault weapons,” he piously declared in a press release that, “California’s Assault Weapons Ban has protected the public for decades. But we must work to make sure that it is capable of dealing with new threats that face California. In the Governor’s veto message, he spoke of the importance of our gun laws and the need to make sure they are carefully tailored.”
Those words ring ironically hollow following the senator’s arrest at his San Francisco home. His colleagues in Sacramento are currently considering his ouster, and even California’s two anti-gun U.S. Senators – Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer – are also saying it is time for Yee to go.
Yee is alleged to have taken money for political favors and sought to profit from an illegal weapons trafficking scheme, allegedly to raise much-needed funds for his Secretary of State campaign and also to retire a $70,000 debt from his unsuccessful run to become mayor of San Francisco. The federal complaint also covers drug trafficking, money laundering and liquor smuggling.
Now released on $500,000 bond, Yee is one of more than two dozen people named in the federal complaint. Also snared in the arrests were Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a Chinatown crime figure with a lengthy criminal record, and political consultant Keith Jackson. Yee’s attorney says his client will enter a not guilty plea.
The 137-page federal complaint, which may be read here, is stunning. Some are suggesting it reads like a crime novel, and in a way it is reminiscent of a 1985 Michael Cimino film “Year of the Dragon,” which delved into the criminal activities of gangs in New York City’s Chinatown.
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