Republican Tim Donnelly, who has made gun rights a centerpiece of his gubernatorial campaign, is pushing for legislation in the Assembly that would expand gun owners' access to concealed carry permits.
His bill, which he promoted at the Capitol on Monday, follows a federal court ruling in February that found the state's requirements for concealed weapons permits too restrictive.
Current state law requires applicants to show "good cause" and gives discretion over the permit process to local law enforcement officials. Donnelly, an assemblyman from Twin Peaks, said that process is "arbitrary and capricious," favoring gun owners who are well connected.
Donnelly said his legislation, which would require the state Department of Justice to issue a concealed handgun permit to gun owners who pass a background check, "would make the promise of our Second Amendment a reality for every Californian."
"A right's not a right if you can't exercise it," Donnelly told reporters at the Capitol.
Donnelly's legislation, Assembly Bill 1563, is unlikely to gain support in the Democratic-controlled Legislature, but it may further bolster his credentials with conservative activists.
Donnelly, the Legislature's most outspoken gun rights advocate, pleaded no contest in 2012 to two misdemeanor charges related to the discovery of a firearm in his carry-on bag at Ontario International Airport. Donnelly has said he forgot he had the gun.
Donnelly said Monday that he has had no personal experience with the concealed carry permit process in California, but that "maybe I would be one of the first people to apply for it under my new law."
Donnelly spoke to reporters ahead of a hearing by the Assembly Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the legal status of the state's concealed carry restrictions remains uncertain.
While a three-member panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the state's requirement that applicants for concealed-weapon permits show "good cause," Attorney General Kamala Harris has asked the full court to review the ruling.
Nick Wilcox, with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, said Monday that Donnelly's bill would inappropriately remove discretion from law enforcement officials about whether to issue concealed-weapon permits. He described the bill as a "political thing for Donnelly" and said it "has no hope of getting out of committee."
PHOTO: Republican Tim Donnelly speaks to reporters at the Capitol on April 28, 2014. The Sacramento Bee/David Siders