Sixteen California lawmakers met Monday with former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona, who was gravely wounded in a 2011 mass shooting, and agreed to form a working group to develop and pass gun control laws that can serve as a model for other states and the nation.
The working group will put together a package of gun laws, including new taxes on firearms for anti-violence programs, and submit them to Gov. Gavin Newsom for approval.
The Democratic state legislators said they are frustrated by inaction in Washington on the issue of gun violence and are hopeful that Newsom will be sympathetic to their efforts to further restrict the availability of firearms in California.
“Thoughts and prayers from Washington won’t keep our kids safe,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel of Van Nuys after the closed-door meeting with Giffords. “What we need are common-sense gun laws that will protect our schools, our families and our communities.”
Giffords, who was shot by a gunman in Arizona in an incident that left six people dead, thanked the California lawmakers at a Capitol news conference for taking the lead on the issue.
“Now is the time to come together,” she told the legislators. “Be bold. Be courageous. The nation is counting on you.”
Bills already introduced this year would ban the purchase of more than one gun a month, require guns kept in homes to be locked away from children, and would give teachers and co-workers the ability to ask the courts to temporarily take guns from people deemed a public danger.
Assemblyman Mike Gipson of Carson gave an emotional appeal for more action on Monday, citing the shooting death of his nephew two days before Christmas in Los Angeles.
“As all of America was celebrating the holiday season, we were mourning,” he said.
One approach of the package of new bills being developed would be to expand violence prevention programs in communities, including crisis intervention, mediation and trauma counseling to address street violence.
Assemblyman Marc Levine of San Rafael has proposed raising money for prevention programs with a $25 tax on the sale of semiautomatic firearms, such as the handgun used Nov. 7 in a shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks that left 12 people dead.
“We want California to create a regulatory framework that is a model for the rest of the country,” Gabriel said.
But Craig J. DeLuz, a spokesman for the Firearms Policy Coalition, said the state already has the strictest gun control laws in the country.
“Anything that they might consider to be reasonable gun laws has already been done,” DeLuz said. “We’re at a point where we’ve gone from reasonable to infringement.”
Giffords visited the Capitol on the same day a new poll found that voters cited reducing gun violence in schools as the top educational issue facing the state.
Some 56% of voters said gun violence is a 10 on a scale from 1 to 10 among their priority issues for education, according to a poll from researchers at the USC Rossier School of Education and Policy Analysis for California Education and conducted by Tulchin Research.
Gun violence was a higher priority to voters polled than college affordability, reducing the teacher shortage and improving education funding.
“This poll sends an unmistakable message from voters to policymakers: Do something about gun violence,” said Karen Symms Gallagher, dean of USC Rossier.