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Sacramento Shoots Gun Control

A package of sensible state gun control bills, including modest limits on possession and tougher penalties for those who violate gun laws, is now dead or nearly so.

Among the confirmed casualties in the Legislature this week: a bill that would have made it a crime to possess a loaded and concealed gun while drunk--passage should have been a no-brainer--and a bill that would have repealed state law preventing cities and counties from enacting their own gun ordinances. The Legislature’s inaction on moderate gun controls is nothing short of irresponsible.

Bills that have one last chance for passage, possibly today, include measures to limit residents to one gun purchase each month and to toughen state restrictions on assault weapons. Surely our representatives can muster the resolve to pass these minimal restrictions.

But for all these losses and long odds, there has been a key victory. In the wee hours of Wednesday, the Assembly passed a bill by Louis Caldera (D-Los Angeles) limiting the manufacture and sale of “junk guns” that lack safety features. Caldera’s bill now moves to the Senate, which Wednesday passed similar legislation by Sen. Richard G. Polanco (D-Los Angeles).

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Both versions target the half-dozen Southern California gun makers that produce 80% of cheap handguns sold in the nation. Law enforcement officials say the weapons are used in 70% of firearm crimes. The requirements in the bills are designed to reduce accidental firing and explosions by increasing safety elements. These include “kid-safe” target grips and stronger metals.

The grave threat posed by junk guns and other firearms has also generated a noteworthy local effort. Last month, Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Feuer introduced motions that would make it easier for police to track bullet sales, possibly keep more weapons out of criminal hands and perhaps more easily find those who commit gun crime.

Feuer would require that ammunition buyers pass a background check and buy a permit, leaving a thumbprint with the dealer--similar to when one applies for a driver’s license. He would also require that guns sold within the city include trigger locks and would expand limitations on the sale and transfer of so-called Saturday night specials, the cheap handguns.

According to opinions from the attorney general’s office, much of what Feuer is proposing is permissible even with continuing state preemption of gun regulations.

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Feuer has assembled an impressive coalition of local leaders from seven adjacent cities who have vowed to support and replicate his efforts. Not even Feuer would claim that his proposals alone would end gun violence. But they would help. Each city that joins Los Angeles in this endeavor greatly magnifies its impact.


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