California Senate approves sweeping
May 19, 2016, Fox News, AP
In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, a
custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity
detachable magazine is displayed at TDS Guns in Rocklin, Calif.
In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, a custom-made semi-automatic
hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is
displayed at TDS Guns in Rocklin, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Democrats in the California Senate approved
a wide-ranging series of gun control bills Thursday, reviving an
effort to significantly tighten California's already strict gun
laws in the wake of last year's terrorist attack in San
Lawmakers voted to outlaw the sale of assault weapons with
easily detachable magazines and to require that people turn in
magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds. They also
backed a variety of other measures aimed at restricting access
to guns and ammunition or limiting the carnage they can inflict.
The effort drew a sharp rebuke from gun rights supporters who
say squeezing lawful gun owners even further won't make people
It also laid bare tense differences in personality and strategy
between senior California Democrats. Legislative leaders are
rushing to head off a ballot measure advocated by Lt. Gov. Gavin
Newsom, a fellow Democrat, asking voters to enact many of the
same policies. They worry the initiative will fail at the ballot
box or fire up gun rights supporters, potentially increasing
turnout of conservative voters who could give Republicans an
edge in close districts.
California's assault-weapon ban prohibits new rifles with
magazines that can be detached without the aid of tools. To get
around the law, gun makers developed so called bullet buttons
that allow a shooter to quickly dislodge the magazine using the
tip of a bullet or other small tool.
"They are designed only to facilitate the maximum destruction of
human life," said Sen. Isadore Hall, D-Compton, who co-wrote the
Law enforcement officials recovered two rifles and two handguns
after the San Bernardino attack. Both types of rifles are sold
with bullet buttons.
It's illegal in California to sell magazines holding more than
10 rounds or to bring them into the state, but people who
already owned them are allowed to keep them. Senators voted
Thursday to outlaw possession of a high-capacity magazine,
essentially forcing owners to give them up or run afoul of the
Outlawing bullet buttons and high-capacity magazines is a
priority for gun control advocates, who hope that making it
harder to reload would slow down a shooter and give bystanders
time to escape or intervene. Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013
vetoed the Legislature's last attempt to ban bullet buttons,
saying it was too far-reaching. A high-capacity magazine ban
failed in the state Assembly that year.
The debate has fallen along familiar lines, with Democrats
advocating a crackdown on guns in the name of safety and
Republicans saying that tougher gun laws only hinder people
intent on following the law.
"Gun ownership is a constitutional bedrock," said Sen. Ted
Gaines, R-El Dorado Hills. "We can't smash the 2nd Amendment
into a million pieces and expect America to be as free and
strong as it's always been."
Senators approved 11 gun-related bills in total.
They include regulations for homemade firearms, background
checks for ammunition purchases, a mandate to report lost or
stolen guns, a ban on loaning firearms to friends and funding
for a gun-violence research center.
The debate in the Senate comes as Newsom, a Democrat running for
governor in 2018, is advocating a November gun control ballot
measure incorporating many of the policies the Senate backed
Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said he's
also concerned that presumptive Republican presidential nominee
Donald Trump's campaign will drive more right-leaning voters to
the polls and imperil the gun-control initiative.
"I think it's too risky to put a lot of hard work, decades of
hard work, before the voters of California. We don't know if it
passes or not," de Leon said. "But if we can get it done in the
legislative body, the question is, why not do it?"
De Leon wrote to Newsom last month asking him to hold off on his
initiative and allow lawmakers to tackle the problem. Newsom
The measures go to the state Assembly, where Speaker Anthony
Rendon, D-Paramount, and other Democrats have publicly backed
some of the policies approved by the Senate. But they could face
a roadblock with moderate Democrats who have watered down or
halted legislation from the more liberal Senate.
The initiative isn't going away, said Dan Newman, a campaign
strategist working on the campaign. The initiative takes a
different approach to tracking ammunition purchases and also
requires vendors to report lost or stolen ammunition.
"It's one of those situations where more is more," Newman said.
"The NRA is so powerful, and the gun violence tragedies are so
frequent and so horrific, we need to take bold action in every
Gun rights advocates blasted the Senate for rushing the
legislation to meet a deadline at the end of June for Newsom to
withdraw his initiative.
"It is nothing short of unconscionable that millions of
law-abiding Californians are being used as chess pieces in a
twisted political game to see who can race to the bottom first,"
said Craig DeLuz, legislative advocate for the gun rights group
Firearms Policy Coalition.
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