SACRAMENTO -- A Republican candidate for California governor is comparing President Barack Obama's gun control policies with those of dictators such as Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin and North Korea's Kim Jong Il.

State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, R-Twin Peaks, posted a Twitter message Tuesday with an image that compared what he said were figures who have supported gun rights with those who have supported gun control.

Those he said "stood for gun rights" were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

He said Hitler, Stalin, Kim, King George III, Mao Zedong and Obama "stood for gun control."

"Which side would you choose?" Donnelly said in his Twitter message.

In a statement later Tuesday from his campaign to The Associated Press, Donnelly said he was standing up for the Second Amendment, which he said recognizes an "unalienable right to defend your life."

"When government becomes the greatest threat to the very rights it was formed to protect, that is tyranny," he said in the statement. "Tyranny is the daily purpose of dictators, and I will not apologize for pointing out that our current president acts more like a dictator than a leader of a free people in a Constitutional Republic."

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown last year signed 11 firearms bills approved by the state Legislature and vetoed seven. Among those the Democratic governor vetoed was a bill that would have imposed the nation's toughest gun ownership restrictions on Californians, which Brown characterized as too far-reaching.

Obama has had less success after proposing sweeping gun control measures last year following the December 2012 elementary school shooting in Newtown, Conn., which left 20 first-graders and six educators dead.

The toughest proposals, such as stricter background checks, fell flat with lawmakers on Capitol Hill. Since then, Obama has instead announced executive actions aimed at strengthening federal background checks for gun purchasers.

Donnelly, a conservative in the state Assembly who frequently speaks about gun rights, pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges in 2012 after he was found with a loaded Colt .45 in his carry-on bag at a Southern California airport.

California Republican Party spokesman Mark Standriff declined to comment on Donnelly's tweet, saying that the party "will not get involved in a discussion between primary candidates in a contested race."