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March 17, 2014
William Endicott: O.K. Corral in a Donnelly administration

Tim_Donnelly.JPG(March 17 - By William Endicott, Special to The Bee)

Tim Donnelly has about as much chance of becoming governor of California as Arnold Schwarzenegger does of winning an Oscar, which is to say he has virtually no chance at all.

That's a good thing, and here's why: Twin Peaks' favorite son seems to have an unhealthy obsession with guns, not to mention a touch of paranoia, and thinks everybody ought to be armed.

The Republican gubernatorial candidate even says it is his God-given right to tote a gun, though I have been unable to find just what Scripture he is reading that anoints him with that right.

At any rate, seeing as how he thinks we all ought to march to the sound of guns, I can see every day under a Donnelly administration being like "High Noon" on the streets of Sacramento, or a stroll through the O.K. Corral.

He told The Bee's David Siders recently that "I find gun registration to be offensive. I think gun registration is simply so that someday the government can confiscate it."

So just how many guns does Donnelly have in his personal arsenal? "I decline to say how many guns I have," he said. "It's none of the government's business." The better question might be, how many guns does one need?

California has more problems than one can count on two hands, from deteriorating schools to deteriorating infrastructure and what is starting to look like a never-ending water crisis.

But the centerpiece of Donnelly's campaign is gun rights. Apparently, he fantasizes for the days of the old Wild West, an image shaped by Western movies, where drifters, cowpokes, good guys and bad guys all strapped on their six-guns before breakfast and took them off only when they crawled into bed.

Donnelly's main GOP opponent, Neel Kashkari, told a Sacramento audience recently that while he is a gun owner, he's not running a Second Amendment agenda.

"If you're a single-issue voter and you just want someone to give you a full-capacity assault rifle magazine, God bless you, you can go vote for somebody else," he said.

Amen to that.

There is no doubt that gun control is one of those hot-button issues, like gay rights and abortion, that can rile up those on the political and religious right, but it doesn't strike me as a winning issue in California, which has some of the toughest gun regulations in the country.

Most people seem to prefer it like that. But not everybody.

Several weeks ago, a federal court of appeals struck down a clause in the state's concealed-weapons law, making it easier for anyone to get a concealed-weapons permit. Prior to the court ruling, the law required gun owners to prove they were under an "imminent threat" when applying to carry a hidden weapon.

Next door to Donnelly's Southern California Assembly district, the police chief in Desert Hot Springs immediately announced that he will start processing concealed-weapons permits for any of his citizens who want one.

You don't have to look far recently to see what happens when people can pack guns with no restrictions.

In Florida, for instance, which has what have been described as "accommodating" gun laws, one man shot and killed a teenager for playing loud music, and another shot and killed a man in argument over the victim's use of a cellphone in a movie theater.

And there is, of course, the notorious case of the teenager, Trayvon Martin, gunned down by neighborhood watch zealot George Zimmerman for walking through a neighborhood where Zimmerman unilaterally decided Martin didn't belong.

In all those cases, if there had been no guns, there would have been no shootings.

It also has been suggested by the pro-gun crowd that if more moviegoers had been armed in the mass shooting at the Aurora, Colo., theater in 2012, there would have been less carnage. In all likelihood, some kind of wild shootout would have produced more deaths.

But the police chief in Desert Hot Springs, in a statement that must have plucked at the heartstrings of Tom Donnelly, said that "it's time for us to issue concealed-weapons licenses to the law-abiding people of this city. I believe this would deter crime and help people feel safer."

Nothing good is apt to come from what is going on in Desert Hot Springs, just as nothing good would come from the unfettered, unchecked gun ownership advocated by Tim Donnelly.

William Endicott is a former deputy managing editor of The Sacramento Bee.