State lawmakers seek tighter gun laws after Sandy Hook shootings

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A group of California lawmakers is proposing tighter gun laws to better control access to weapons after the Newtown, Conn., mass shooting.

The proposals include mandatory permits with fees and background checks for anyone who wants to buy bullets. Tougher gun permit and safety measures, as well as a plan to close a loophole in the state’s assault weapons ban, also were proposed.

California has been fighting in court for years with the National Rifle Assn. and other groups over an earlier, landmark law to restrict handgun ammunition sales. The state has been unable to enforce the law since 2010 because of the litigation.

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‘For too long, too much ground has been ceded in this debate about reasonable gun and ammunition control,’ said Sen. Kevin De Leon, chairman of the Senate Democratic Caucus.

The Democrat from Los Angeles is leading the effort for new regulations on ammunition sales, which he said Tuesday would be dedicated to those killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. ‘We must not capitulate any longer.’

He said his new proposal addresses concerns raised by the courts that the existing law does not clearly define what constitutes handgun ammunition. The rules proposed by De Leon would apply to ammunition for all guns.

California lawmakers repeatedly have implemented strict rules on gun ownership despite the state’s large population of hunters and recreational shooters, and constant wrangling with the NRA. The nonprofit Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which lobbies for restrictions on firearm ownership, ranks California No. 1 among states.

Bans on assault weapons and ammunition clips holding more than 10 rounds, as well as a strong background check requirement, retention of records on gun buyers and a 10-day waiting period for purchasing firearms helped earn California the distinction.

De Leon wants an annual permit fee of up to $50 to pay for felony and mental illness background checks.


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-- Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento