"The world today must seem like a very cruel place," he said, speaking directly to the immigrants and unconcerned about the TV cameras. "However, I want you to know that the overwhelming majority of the people of this state are good and decent and compassionate."
The governor noted that his own immigrant parents had fled Armenia to escape oppression and death at the hands of Ottoman Turks.
Back in Sacramento, Deukmejian fought off his old allies in the gun lobby and their Republican subservients in the Legislature.
Political pros might argue that this was fine for him. He wasn't going to run for office again and needn't fear the NRA. But it's also true that Deukmejian wasn't even grazed in the gun fight.
Based on the independent Field Poll, he was — still is — the most popular California governor since at least the1950s, with an approval rating that never fell below 53%.
"The closer we got to [passage], the more upset and engaged the opposition got," recalls Allan Zaremberg, then Deukmejian's legislative liaison and now president of the state Chamber of Commerce.
"My response to the [Republican] caucus was that the governor was committed to this and we're going to do it."
The bill passed the Senate easily and cleared the Assembly with no votes to spare.
Gun manufacturers immediately began to undermine the act by producing weapons similar to the banned models. A substantial strengthening was required in 1999 under Democratic Gov. Gray Davis.
Now more tightening is needed as gun makers continue to pry open loopholes.
What's most needed is Feinstein's legislation that would ban assault weapons nationally and match California's prohibition against bullet magazines holding more than 10 rounds. Then the loonies and gun-obsessed couldn't buy these mass-murder machines at Nevada gun shows and cart them into California.
We could use a new Iron Duke or two in Sacramento and Washington.