Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom discusses guns, marijuana in political science class

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Audrey McNamara/Senior Staff

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California Lt. Gov. and former mayor of San Francisco Gavin Newsom visited one of UC Berkeley’s political science classes Wednesday and discussed upcoming ballot initiatives 63 and 64, regarding gun control and marijuana legalization, respectively.

Newsom’s visit to campus comes after his campaign announcement for the 2018 governorship.  

Haas School of Business and political science professor Alan Ross first contacted Newsom about speaking in his class seven years ago, and Newsom has continued to visit the class every year since.

“One year it was the World Series and he had tickets, the game was starting — and he’s still here answering questions,” Ross said.

Though Newsom typically speaks on topics of his choice, this year, Ross requested that Newsom specifically speak on the upcoming election.

In discussing his first ballot initiative, Proposition 63, Newsom emphasized the importance of California as a motivator for change in the national push for gun control legislation. Among other things, the proposition would require background checks for purchasing ammunition, which is a “game changer,” according to Newsom.

The second initiative, Proposition 64, would legalize and establish framework regulations for the recreational use of marijuana. Newsom described the war on drugs as a “failure,” noting the high incarceration rate and loss of potential state revenue.

“We’re spending more on prisons than we are on higher education,” Newsom said.

Divya Vijay, communications director for the Cal Berkeley Democrats, said she was concerned that Newsom, as a potential governor, did not propose to halt tuition hikes, but she was tentatively hopeful that the lieutenant governor’s Proposition 64 would relieve state funds for higher education.

“Nonviolent offenders will be released, so that would free up a lot of money for our education system. Just a matter of making sure that this is a huge priority,” Vijay said. “As governor, to publicly support increasing funding public education would greatly influence state legislators to take action.”

Throughout his talk, Newsom stressed leadership and personal responsibility as important factors in creating social change.

“You don’t have to be something to do something,” Newsom said.

Contact Audrey McNamara at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.