Stand up for the facts!

Our only agenda is to publish the truth so you can be an informed participant in democracy.
We need your help.

More Info

I would like to contribute

The claim was made in a Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 statewide TV ad. The claim was made in a Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 statewide TV ad.

The claim was made in a Gavin Newsom for Governor 2018 statewide TV ad.

Chris Nichols
By Chris Nichols April 27, 2018

Gavin Newsom’s False claim he was ‘first to take on the NRA and win’

In 2016, the Democrat and frontrunner in the race for California governor led the passage of Proposition 63. The voter-approved measure imposed background checks on ammunition purchases and required a state license to sell ammunition, among other provisions. Gun rights groups opposed it.

But did that effort qualify Newsom as "the first to take on the National Rifle Association and win"? That’s one of the claims in a new TV ad that aired statewide this week and was paid for by Newsom’s campaign.

Here’s the full text:

"The LA Times called Gavin Newsom ahead of the pack, from gay marriage to gun control. The first mayor to recognize marriage equality. The first to provide healthcare to every resident. The first to take on the National Rifle Association and win. The one candidate with a record of bold leadership and bold results. It’s why Kamala Harris, teachers, nurses and firefighters support Gavin Newsom for governor. Courage for a change."

In an article earlier this week, we took a broad look at the claims in Newsom’s TV ad, a 30-second spot called "First." We also examined claims in a separate TV ad supporting former Los Angeles mayor and candidate for governor Antonio Villaraigosa.

With this fact check, we’ll take a deeper look at the claim Newsom was "the first to take on the National Rifle Association and win."

Haven’t other California politicos taken on the NRA and won?

'Hardly the first'

In a column for CALmatters, Dan Morain summarized efforts by other Californians who pushed for gun safety measures — decades before Newsom. We used that summary as a guide and inspected additional gun control efforts in the state.

As noted by Morain, Newsom was "hardly the first California big city politician to take on the NRA.".

Sherry Bebitch Jeffee, professor of public policy at USC, added the claim about Newsom being "first," doesn’t hold up to the facts.

"California’s been at the forefront of the gun control movement for a very long time," Jeffee said.

Here’s a look at earlier efforts by prominent California politicians:

Dianne Feinstein

In 1983, then-San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein defeated an NRA-supported recall, Morain noted. The recall started after Feinstein backed a failed statewide initiative to regulate handguns.

Feinstein’s signature gun control measure came two years into her career in the U.S. Senate. She introduced and helped pass the now-expired 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which was also opposed by the NRA.

Tom Bradley

In 1989, then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley signed a city ordinance that banned the sale or possession of semi-automatic weapons. Morain described that as "as a landmark bill at a time when the NRA was able to win elections in California."

Antonio Villaraigosa

Villaraigosa also has gun control credentials. In 1999, then-Assembly Speaker Villaraigosa helped pass a statewide assault weapons ban, though he did not author it.

"The time is now to ban assault weapons," he was quoted as saying in a San Francisco Chronicle article at the time. "It is time to use the power of the Legislature to say with one loud voice that we should all move beyond Columbine."

Luis Vizcaino, a spokesman for Villaraigosa’s campaign for governor, described the former LA mayor’s gun control efforts in a statement to PolitiFact California:

"Mayor Villaraigosa has been taking on the NRA throughout his career. Under his speakership, California passed some of the boldest gun control measures in the country, including what was at the time the toughest assault weapons ban in the nation and greater oversight of gun shows -- all of which was vigorously opposed by the NRA."

More from Newsom

Newsom’s gun control history isn’t limited to 2016. During his time as San Francisco's mayor, Newsom signed into law the voter-approved Proposition H in 2005. It outlawed citizens from possessing handguns and prevented the manufacture, sale and distribution of guns and ammunition in the city. However, it was struck down by a San Francisco Superior Court judge less than a year after it was passed.

In a phone interview earlier this week, Newsom’s campaign spokesman Nathan Click expanded on the claim that Newsom was "the first to take on the National Rifle Association and win."

He clarified that it was intended to show Newsom was the "first person in California history to propose and pass a statewide ballot measure strengthening gun safety laws."

As the claim is made in the ad, text appears showing a headline "Newsom Fights The NRA Over Gun Control." This appears to be a reference to an October 2017 Los Angeles Times news article with a similar headline. It describes Newsom’s request that a federal judge lift an order that blocked Proposition 63’s ban on large-capacity ammunition magazines. We didn’t find any information in the article or elsewhere showing Newsom’s argument swayed the judge to lift the order.

"When you’re trying to convey a series of ideas in 30 seconds, you’re limited by the format," Click added.

He said the ad did not intend to discount earlier accomplishments by other California politicians.

While that’s helpful, PolitiFact places ratings on the original statements, not revisions or clarifications.

Our ruling

A TV advertisement by the Gavin Newsom for Governor campaign claimed Newsom was "the first to take on the National Rifle Association and win."

The claim, however, ignores major gun control measures passed by California politicians from U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein to former Los Angeles mayors Tom Bradley and Antonio Villaraigosa, in the face of NRA opposition.

Newsom’s campaign spokesman said the claim in the ad was meant to convey a more specific accomplishment, showing Newsom as the first to push through a statewide gun safety ballot measure. We’re not challenging that statement.

But we rate the original claim as False.

FALSE – The statement is not accurate.

Click here for more on the six PolitiFact ratings and how we select facts to check.

UPDATE: The Newsom campaign says it has not pulled its "First" TV ad that includes the claim PolitiFact California rated False. A spokesman told us after our fact check published that the campaign is running a separate TV ad that omits the claim in question but was produced back in February, and not in response to any factual concerns. We wrote an article here to clarify that there are two Newsom TV ads. 
Share the Facts
PolitiFact rating logo PolitiFact Rating:
Gavin Newsom was "the first to take on the National Rifle Association and win."
Monday, April 23, 2018

Our Sources

"First", TV advertisement, Gavin for Governor campaign, accessed April 2018

Nathan Click, spokesman, Gavin for Governor campaign, interview, April 24, 2018

Luis Vizcaino, spokesman, Antonio for California campaign, statement, April 25, 2018

Sherry Bebitch Jeffee, professor of public policy at USC, April 27, 2018

CALmatters, What Matters, April 24, 2018

Los Angeles Times, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom fights NRA over gun control law in federal court, Oct. 20, 2017

PolitiFact California, Fact-checking TV ads in California governor’s race, April 25, 2018

McClatchy Newspapers, Sen. Dianne Feinstein presses her decades-long crusade on guns, March 10, 2013

San Francisco Chronicle, Tough Assault-Weapons Ban Awaits Governor's Signature, July 13, 1999

San Francisco Chronicle, Judge invalidates Prop. H handgun ban, June 13, 2006

The New York Times, Los Angeles bans rapid-firing guns, 1989

The New York Times, Mayor Feinstein, by wide margin, defeats San Francisco recall bid, 1983

Ballotpedia, California Proposition 15 Handgun Registration Initiative (1982)

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

More by Chris Nichols

Gavin Newsom’s False claim he was ‘first to take on the NRA and win’

Support independent fact-checking.
Become a member!

In a world of wild talk and fake news, help us stand up for the facts.

Sign me up