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After Orlando, California lawmakers rally for gun control bills

FBI investigators gather Monday morning outside of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
FBI investigators gather Monday morning outside of Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. (Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

A group of California lawmakers said Monday that the Orlando massacre is a call to action for the state Legislature to pass a package of 11 gun control bills scheduled for key votes this week .

Four Assembly members gathered with community leaders in San Francisco to call on their colleagues to pass the legislation that includes measures to plug loopholes in the state’s ban on the sale of assault weapons.

“Why are guns that are so dangerous to human life available so easily?” said Assemblyman Marc Levine (D-San Rafael) at the Hiram Johnson State Building. “Yesterday’s tragedy was a call to action. The loss of life in our communities has become unbearable.”

California law already bans the sale of AR-15-style assault weapons like the one reportedly used by Omar Mateen when he killed 50 people and wounded more than 50 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

State officials say similar but differently named semiautomatic guns outfitted with "bullet buttons" that allow quick replacement of ammunition magazines could still be sold.

Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco) said the bills scheduled for action Tuesday in legislative committees would close loopholes that allow the sale of semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines.

Other bills would outlaw the possession of magazines with a capacity of more than 10 bullets and require background checks for people who buy ammunition.

“We want to make sure we have opportunities to grieve right now,” Ting said. “But at the same time we do have an opportunity to take action.”

The bills pending in the Legislature were introduced in response to a terrorist attack in December that killed 14 people in San Bernardino . Democratic Assemblymen Rob Bonta of Oakland and David Chiu of San Francisco also said the Orlando massacre shows action is overdue.

“After the tragedies in Newtown and San Bernardino, our community demanded action, and this week approximately another 50 families will be planning funerals for their loved ones,” Bonta said.

Ting is author of a bill that would expand a year-old law allowing law enforcement and family members to ask a court to issue a restraining order to take guns away from people they believe are dangerous.

“If Florida had what we have in California, a gun violence restraining order, people could have acted,” Ting said. “What we had [in Orlando] is law enforcement had concerns, this person’s wife had concerns.”

The press conference was also attended by leaders of the gay and Muslim communities who condemned the Orlando shooting but did not take a position on the pending gun control bills.

There are logical steps we can take to prevent highly destructive weapons from getting into the wrong hands, responsible ways to do it, and we can take action right now,” Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said in a statement Sunday. "Thoughts and prayers are not enough."

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is championing a measure likely to qualify for the fall ballot that would implement similar gun control restrictions.

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