In an advertisement airing on television stations across California, gubernatorial frontrunner Gavin Newsom is painting Republican rival John Cox as a Trump-supporting, gun-toting challenger who opposes gun control.
It's a response to an attack ad from Cox in which he says Newsom "panders to the anti-gun crowd." It's meant to highlight the stark difference between Newsom and Cox on guns, but the strategy could also help the San Diego businessman consolidate support among Republicans and Trump backers.
In Newsom's ad, images flash across the screen of Cox next to Trump and Wayne LaPierre, head of the National Rifle Association.
Why is John Cox attacking Gavin Newsom for supporting common sense gun safety?
John Cox stands with Donald Trump and the NRA.
Cox called gun laws a "waste of time," opposes background checks and a ban on assault weapons.
Gavin Newsom? Gavin Newsom took on the gun lobby and won, passed California's first comprehensive gun safety initiative. As governor, Newsom will stand with the students to put a stop to gun violence. Gavin Newsom. Courage for a change.
Newsom's ad is mostly spot on, though it's not accurate to imply that Cox opposes all background checks for gun purchases.
Although his campaign website makes no mention of background checks, Cox campaign manager Tim Rosales told The Sacramento Bee that Cox supports an instant law enforcement background check, done automatically at the point of sale, but he opposes California's mandatory 10-day waiting period.
It's true that Newsom led an initiative in 2016 toughening California's already strict gun control laws. Proposition 63 instituted background checks for ammunition purchases, outlawed high-capacity magazines, created new rules mandating reporting of lost and stolen firearms, clarified state laws requiring gun theft always be charged as a felony and made it law for the state to share information with the FBI about individuals prohibited from owning guns.
The state Legislature that year, spurred by the initiative Newsom unveiled in 2015, passed a package of gun bills that accomplished much of what the voter-approved initiative did. The NRA opposed it, spending about $100,000 to lobby against it, while other pro-gun groups including the California Rifle and Pistol Association criticized it as a threat to the Second Amendment.
The NRA, which supported Trump for president, didn't put up a huge fight on Proposition 63, however, because Gov. Jerry Brown had already signed the package of gun bills into law.
The assertion that Cox is aligned with President Donald Trump and the NRA is also correct.
Though he did not vote for him, Cox is a passionate supporter of the president and said recently that he regrets that decision. He is also a lifetime member of the NRA, according to campaign spokesman Matt Schupe.
Cox also said "I think gun control is a waste of time," when he was running for the Republican Party nomination for president in 2008.
Rosales said Cox opposes a ban on assault weapons, which he referred to as "modern sporting rifles."