Attorney General Rob Bonta, with Assemblymember Mia Bonta (left), announce the creation of the Office of Gun Violence Prevention within the California Department of Justice at a press event in San Francisco on Sept. 21, 2022. Photo by Martin do Nascimento, CalMatters

(CALMATTERS) – In an alley south of San Francisco’s Market Street, surrounded by the scraps of disassembled weapons and flanked by the mothers of young men killed by gunfire — including the one memorialized on the mural behind him — Attorney General Rob Bonta announced his latest idea for tackling gun violence in California. 

But it wasn’t his idea alone.

Earlier this year, Assemblymember Mia Bonta, an Oakland Democrat and the attorney general’s wife, introduced a bill that would have created a new office inside the state’s Department of Justice tasked with researching, promoting and supporting new street-level policies to combat gun violence. 

That bill failed, falling victim to the Legislature’s opaque “suspense file.”

At the press conference Wednesday, the Bontas announced that the Department of Justice would be getting its new office anyway.

  • Mia Bonta: “This legislation served as a catalyst for the ultimate creation of this office within the Department of Justice…I thank the attorney general for this, my partner is life and my partner in service.
  • Rob Bonta: “This innovative new office, the first of its kind — not just in the state but in the nation — will complement our existing robust efforts…(it) will serve as the hub for best practices and a valuable resource for law enforcement agencies, cities and counties and nonprofit partners.”

One of those best-practices — aggressively using the state’s “red flag” law to remove firearms from those deemed to pose a violent threat — already has a hub, but it isn’t the state’s Department of Justice. As CalMatters’ Alexei Koseff reported earlier this week, it’s the city of San Diego

The attorney general praised San Diego’s program, but said his new office could more effectively serve as a clearinghouse for good ideas.

How did the attorney general set up a new office inside his department without the new funding in his wife’s bill? At the moment, it’s only an office on paper with enough funding for a single employee, the director. They’re accepting applications.

Less than two months from Election Day, Attorney General Bonta has been making a lot of news lately. Wednesday he answered a few other outstanding questions:

  • Yes, he’s worried about a surge in new concealed carry permits.Because a bill he sponsored that would have tightened state restrictions on who can legally carry a concealed firearm failed in the final hours of the legislative session, Bonta said that “public safety is at risk,” but he vowed to push for “essentially identical” legislation when the new Legislature convenes in December.
  • No, he has no new information to share about his office’s publication of the personal identifying information of concealed carry license applicants, which he said is still being investigated by an outside law firm. But he stressed that he’s “very disappointed and frustrated and angry about it.”
  • No, he has nothing new to say about his department’s decision to take over the Los Angeles Sheriff Department’s investigation into County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl. Bonta said he made the decision in response to a request by Sheriff Villanueva to look into whether someone tipped Kuehl off before her house was raided by sheriff’s deputies last week. Said Bonta: “We will take that part of the case but we’re also going to take the other inexplicably corresponding components of the case.”