Lawmakers advance gun control measures in response to San Bernardino massacre
Four months after the San Bernardino mass shooting, state lawmakers on Tuesday gave initial approval to five gun control bills, including measures that would outlaw assault rifles with detachable magazines, ban possession of clips holding more than 10 rounds and require homemade guns to be registered with the state.
The bills approved by the state Senate Public Safety Committee were introduced in response to the December shooting in San Bernardino that left 14 people dead and 22 others wounded at the hands of two terrorists.
One of the measures the panel sent toward the Senate floor would outlaw assault rifles with easily detachable bullet magazines like one of the weapons used in the mass shooting in San Bernardino.
The bill prohibits the sale of semiautomatic, centerfire rifles with a “bullet button,” a recessed button that, when pressed, allows removal of the magazine. Those who already own them must register them with the state as assault rifles.
Democratic state Sens. Isadore Hall of Compton and Steve Glazer of Orinda introduced the measure, SB 880, in response to the discovery of a gun with a bullet button that was in the possession of the San Bernardino terrorists.
“These weapons of war don’t belong in our communities,” Glazer told the Senate panel before it approved the measure he coauthored with Hall.
Hall said there is an urgent need to close a loophole in the law that bans assault weapons.
“For years, gun owners have been able to circumvent California’s assault weapons law by using a small tool to quickly eject and reload an ammunition magazine,” Hall said.
The measure is opposed by gun owner rights groups including the National Rifle Assn., according to its lobbyist, Ed Worley.
“We continue to oppose banning guns for citizens who have no criminal background,” Worley told the panel. “People should be able to own any kind of gun they want to own in the United States of America.”
The Senate panel also approved a bill by Sen. Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) that would ban the possession of ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds, closing a loophole in a law that already prohibits their manufacture and sale in California.
Hancock noted that four large-capacity magazines were found among the weapons of the two shooters in San Bernardino. Since 1980, 435 people have been killed in 50 mass shootings involving large-capacity magazines, some of which can hold 100 rounds of ammunition, she said.
The magazines have already been banned in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
“By banning these weapons statewide we would be taking a step to preventing future mass shootings and creating safer communities in California,” Hancock told the Senate panel.
Republican Sen. Jeff Stone voted against the bill.
“Today we want to make criminals out of law-abiding citizens who have been collecting guns,” Stone said.
FOR THE RECORD
April 20, 11:35 a.m.: An earlier version of this story mistakenly attributed a quote to Sen. John Moorlach. The statement was from Sen. Jeff Stone.
The measure was also opposed by others including Worley and Sam Paredes, the executive director of Gun Owners of California, who said millions of large-capacity clips are already in the hands of Californians.
“Here we are trying to confiscate people’s property,” Worley told the panel.
Paredes said many law enforcement officers are given large-capacity magazines.
“That is what they may need to protect themselves,” Paredes said. “Why should it be any different for a law-abiding citizen?”
The Senate committee also approved a bill that would allow the state to collect information on those who buy ammunition for firearms. An earlier law that would have required bullet purchasers to provide identification and a thumbprint was struck down by a court in 2010 on the grounds that its definition of handgun ammunition was vague.
That case is on appeal to the state Supreme Court.
The new bill by Senate President Pro Tem Kevin De León (D-Los Angeles), SB 1235, would clarify that the previous law applies to all ammunition, including bullets for long guns and handguns as well as shotgun shells, which he hopes will address the lower court’s concerns.
The panel also approved a bill requiring those who build guns at home to register them with the state, get a serial number and undergo a criminal background check.
“These firearms are called ‘ghost guns’ because they are built at home … with no serial numbers or background checks involved,” De León told the panel before it approved the bill on a 5-3 party-line vote. “These are weapons that have the ability to kill or maim a human being.”
Hundreds of ghost guns have been seized in California, and they have been used in major crimes, including a mass shooting in 2013. The measure is backed by the California Police Chiefs Assn.
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“Gun-smithing has become easier than putting together Ikea furniture because of the 3-D printer,” said Chief Jennifer G. Tejada of the Emeryville Police Department. “This bill will decrease the number of untraceable firearms in California.”
The measure is opposed by groups including the NRA and Gun Owners of California.
“We’re going to take hobbyists who enjoy making guns and we’re going to make them criminals,” Worley said.
The panel also approved measures that would require firearms owners to report lost or stolen guns to authorities within five days and another to create a gun violence prevention research center at a University of California system campus.
Meanwhile, a bill that would have required all gun sales to be videotaped failed to pass an Assembly committee on Tuesday.
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