Tea Party crowd discusses gun rights

David Matza, communications manager for the California Rifle & Pistol Association, speaks to a crowd of more than 125 inside the Oakhurst Best Western Tuesday.
David Matza, communications manager for the California Rifle & Pistol Association, speaks to a crowd of more than 125 inside the Oakhurst Best Western Tuesday. Sierra Star

About 125 gun rights advocates attended an Oakhurst/Coarsegold Tea Party meeting last week to hear updates on the latest efforts to battle what they feel are “dangerous” steps shaping California into a gun-free state.

David Matza of the California Rifle and Pistol Association (CRPA), Madera County Sheriff Jay Varney and Monique Hutchings, competitve shooter and owner of Spencer’s Firearms east of Madera, told the crowd the need to form a “grassroots movement,” and to sign the seven referendum petitions to overturn recently-passed bills that circled the room.

“These bills are a dangerous way of doing something just for the sake of doing something,” Matza said. “They make no sense at all. We are actively going to fight these bills, and our legal team is working around the clock putting together lawsuits against them.”

At recent odds with firearm supporters are a sweeping set of gun control bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in July, that, among many changes, amended the definition of assault weapons to include semi-automatic rifles with detachable magazines alongside additional registration fees, and that loaning a firearm can only be done between direct family members.

“Assembly Bill 1511 makes you a criminal for loaning your gun to someone else to use at a range,” Matza said to gasps from the crowd. “That’s going to impact youth shooting, the Boy Scouts, all kinds of people. Because a lot of them aren’t going to spend $1,000 on a gun just to let a kid try shooting for once. And that really frightens us because if you stop kids from being able to try shooting at a young age, it takes away that right even earlier.”

To overturn the bills, Matza said more than 365,000 validated signatures will be needed on each petition by Sept. 29.

Hutchings said she’ll have the documents readily available in her store, 14402 Highway 41, Madera, and available by phone at (559) 822-4369. She stressed the importance of not only signing those documents, but staying involved in the gun control battle.

“They have said that we don’t matter,” Hutchings said of noted gun control proponents like state Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, or 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. “But we do matter. Right now they look at us like a faceless email, a faceless phone call. But if we put our face right in front of them, as we plan to, then they will listen to us.”

Varney, who had a gun in place of the letter “J” on his campaign for election last year, added he remains an avid supporter of concealed carry permits and other firearm rights.

“We’re being cast by the media and by people who have an agenda that we’re a problem,” said Varney, who added he came on his own time and was speaking out of uniform. “Over the last 16 years, we’re up to maybe four incidents in Madera County where a gun was involved and it involved a (concealed carry) gun owner ... that shows you how ridiculous these thoughts are that it’s guns or responsible gun owners that are the problem.”

Varney, Hutchings and Matza said voters should reject Proposition 63 this November. If passed, the proposition would require both a background check and further authorization from the state Department of Justice for any ammunition purchase, as well as prohibit possession of large-capacity magazines.

The meeting was held Aug. 16 at the Yosemite Gateway Restaurant.

The next Oakhurst/Coarsegold Tea Party meeting is scheduled for Sept. 20 to discuss upcoming ballot propositions on marijuana and other issues.

Details: David Matza, California Rifle & Pistol Association, (714) 992-2772, John Pero, Tea Party Coordinator, (408) 893-8348.