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California bill would ban game-style events like lotteries and raffles at gun stores

Customers line up outside a store called Gun World
Customers line up outside Gun World in Burbank in 2020. A California bill would ban lotteries, raffles and other promotional events at gun stores.
(Raul Roa / Los Angeles Times)
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Adding to the growing list of gun control measures California Democrats have unveiled in recent weeks, a new bill being announced Thursday would ban firearms dealers from holding game-style promotional events such as giveaways, lotteries and raffles, and add new misdemeanor convictions that prohibit people from owning guns for 10 years.

Senate Bill 368 would also require firearms dealers to store guns turned in voluntarily by owners at risk of suicide and set up gun buyback programs. Buyback programs are traditionally offered by local law enforcement agencies, and are often marketed as a chance for firearms owners to earn a little cash by anonymously and voluntarily turning in their weapons — “no questions asked.”

California already has the strictest gun laws in the nation, but Democrats in Sacramento say more are needed.

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State Sen. Anthony Portantino, a Burbank Democrat who wrote the bill and several of California’s signature gun control laws, said SB 368 would “put responsibility on these businesses to be better stewards of public health if they’re going to be selling something that potentially is detrimental to public health.”

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Portantino, who recently announced a bid for Congress, said new restrictions are particularly needed on promotional events that gun stores often run to bring in business.

“We don’t need games of chance to attract new people into the gun world,” Portantino said. “If it’s detrimental to public heath, should we really be giving freebies?”

Linda Bessin, founder of the political action committee Blue Values Burbank who has lobbied against the opening of new gun stores in the area, said banning promotional events would increase public safety and ensure California’s gun laws are closely followed.

“When you have a very family oriented community like Burbank, we’re going to do everything we can to protect the kids,” Bessin said.

Portantino’s proposal adds to a bundle of bills Democrats have announced in recent weeks to combat gun violence, after a wave of mass shootings in the state killed dozens.

One measure, also by Portantino, would limit who can get a concealed-carry weapon permit in California, while others would ban the sale of body armor often worn by mass shooters, establish an excise tax on ammunition and guns, and require owners to get gun liability insurance.

California lawmakers are trying again with a risky bill to restrict who can carry loaded weapons in public after the Supreme Court struck down restrictive concealed-carry laws.

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Their efforts are more than certain to prompt lawsuits by gun rights groups and 2nd Amendment advocates who’ve already warned lawmakers against passing new limitations on access to firearms. Republican lawmakers have argued that California’s strong gun control laws have still failed to prevent mass shootings and other incidents of gun violence, and that the state should instead focus its attention on illegal firearm ownership.

“Once again, Democrats are focused on the wrong problem. The local gun shop throwing in a free box of bird shot when you buy a shotgun isn’t what’s driving California’s crime wave,” said Assemblymember Tom Lackey, a Palmdale Republican and former California Highway Patrol officer. “If we want to get serious about gun crime, we have to get serious about gun criminals.”

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Still, the majority of Californians support regulations on guns. Sixty-six percent of likely voters back restrictions on gun ownership, according to the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California.

Other provisions of SB 368 would add new misdemeanors to a list of crimes that prohibit convicted persons from possessing a firearm for 10 years, and would require the state Department of Justice to create an evaluation system to determine whether the ban should be extended.

New crimes would include selling ammunition to an underage person or someone banned from possessing a firearm, selling a firearm without a license, or carrying a loaded weapon that is not registered to the person in possession.

The evaluation process would be similar to a background check, Portantino said, and might include reviewing social media posts, or obtaining character references to ensure someone isn’t a threat to public safety.

“If you’re not a responsible gun owner, you’re committing these gun-related misdemeanors, you should not have a gun permit,” he said.

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