Last summer, in the painful aftermath of the Bryan Stow beating at Dodger Stadium, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles) offered a beacon of hope for baseball fans who wanted their national pastime back:
His Assembly Bill 2464, as it was originally proposed, would have created “sentencing enhancements for fighting at sporting events” and “a fund, paid into by California's major sports franchises, that would pay for rewards in certain instances.”
Now, after a deja-vu Dodger Stadium beating yesterday night, we're wondering:
Where is AB 2464 when we need it?
The answer is slightly depressing, but ultimately quintessential of most other ambitious bills that try to find their way through the ineffectual California State Legislature.
Just around the same time as last night's beating, the San Francisco Examiner posted an update on the bill. The good news: It recently passed the Assembly, and will now be voted upon by the Senate. The bad news: AB 2464 has transformed from a stadium-violence crackdown (very much mirroring England's tight restrictions on soccer hooligans) into an anorexic-tween version of itself.
The Examiner reports:
Originally set to create a ban list of problematic fans, the bill was watered down in committee hearings to include only the requirement that stadiums clearly post emergency phone and texting numbers for local security officials.
Gatto has been arguing all along that violent sports fans need a special form of punishment. “Let's say you have guy who has an M.O. of going to a soccer game and getting in a fight,” the assemblyman tells LA Weekly today. “You could put him in jail for assault, and he'd get a misdemeanor — a slap on the wrist.”
But if you didn't let him go to any more games, you'd get him where it counts. Gatto claims a similar policy in England has led to a “91 percent reduction in violent incidents” at sporting events.
We can't be sure that Sunday's assault was fueled by fandom, seeing as it originated from a fender bender in the parking lot. The LAPD media-relations office remains firm, today, in saying that “we don't know” whether either party's team affiliation factored into the rage (aka, whether the victim was beaten bloody in front of his pregnant girlfriend because he was either a Dodgers or Cardinals fan, not just a bad driver).
But even if the four suspects arrested for the beatdown do turn out to be crazed fans, there will be no way to hand them extra punishment. Even after the Stow tragedy; even after scumbags like these have turned Dodger Stadium into a place of fear with a gangster reputation.
Assemblyman Gatto says he doesn't “want to belittle what's still left” of his bill. “Sometimes you have to take a quarter loaf of bread,” he says.
But there's no denying that the spirit of AB 2464 has been sucked.
“We planned this for a long time,” says Gatto. “We did a survey; we researched what the world has done to combat these issues.” But as soon as AB 2464 hit the Assembly's Public Safety Committee, it was butchered into nothing more than a stadium sign mandate.
According to Gatto, “It was a really weird hearing.” He remembers that when AB 2464 went up for review, it was “number 20 out of 27 bills” on a very busy day, and committee members seemed confused by the bill language.
“I'm not sure if they understood it,” he says.
However, because the composition of the Public Safety Committee is set to change after this coming election, Gatto does plan to reintroduce his proposal to a fresh set of committee members next year.
We're exhausted just thinking about it. Whether AB 2464 failed due to confusing authorship on Gatto's part or impatience on the Public Safety Committee's part, one thing's clear: What a colossal waste of time.