California lawmakers revive gun control ideas after San Bernardino attack

Guns used in Wednesday's mass killings in San Bernardino. The attack has prompted state lawmakers to consider reviving efforts to strengthen gun laws.

Guns used in Wednesday’s mass killings in San Bernardino. The attack has prompted state lawmakers to consider reviving efforts to strengthen gun laws.

(San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department / Getty Images)

The mass shooting in San Bernardino has state lawmakers looking again at new gun control legislation for California, while leading advocates for restrictions called Friday for the state to close a loophole that allows detachable ammunition magazines like one used by the killers.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said he will revisit some proposals that previously stalled, and an assemblyman proposed banning the sale of guns to those on a federal “no-fly” list.

Now more than ever, we have to be working aggressively with law enforcement and crime prevention experts to better protect our communities.

— Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León


“Now more than ever, we have to be working aggressively with law enforcement and crime prevention experts to better protect our communities,” De León said in a statement Friday. “I’ll be coordinating with the Assembly to deliver a package of proposals to the governor’s desk as soon as possible.”

Authorities investigating the shooting deaths of 14 people in San Bernardino by Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik found 4,500 rounds of ammunition in their Redlands home and 1,400 assault rifle rounds and 200 handgun rounds in their car.

FULL COVERAGE: San Bernardino shooting | Shooting updates

California law prohibits assault rifles with magazines detachable by hand because they could allow for quick reloading.

One bill that failed to win approval by the Legislature in 2013 would have closed a loophole that allows semi-automatic guns to be fitted with a recessed “bullet button” that requires a tool to eject the magazine.

Meredith Davis, a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives spokeswoman, said that of the five firearms recovered, one of the two semi-automatic rifles had a bullet button.


Nick Wilcox, legislative advocate for the California Chapter of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, called Friday for the state to ban bullet buttons.

“With the bullet button exception we have now, California does not have any assault weapons ban,” Wilcox said.

A much broader bill vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown in 2013 would have banned semi-automatic rifles with magazines detachable by any means and required owners to register some low-capacity rifles as assault weapons.

In his veto message on SB 374, Brown wrote that he didn’t “believe that this bill’s blanket ban on semi-automatic rifles would reduce criminal activity or enhance public safety enough to warrant this infringement on gun owners’ rights.”

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Former Senate leader Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said Friday that SB 374, which he authored, “should be reconsidered.”

“The gun lobby has deliberately and consistently violated the intent of the original assault weapon bill,” Steinberg said. “My bill would have closed the most significant loophole.”

Brown noted in 2013 that he had signed AB 48, which closed a loophole on a law that limits magazines to 10 bullets, as well as two bills that restrict the ability of mentally unstable people to buy or possess guns.

“The governor will closely consider any bill that reaches his desk,” spokesman Gareth Lacy said Friday.

Californians already must undergo a 10-day waiting period for purchasing firearms, as well as a background check. Also, the state generally bans the sale, purchase or transfer of assault weapons.

“California already has some of the strictest gun laws in the country, including bans on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity ammunition magazines,” Brown wrote in a veto message for Steinberg’s bill in 2013.

Another bill that may be revived would require background checks on those who buy ammunition to make sure they are not felons disqualified from owning guns.

Last year, the Assembly deadlocked 35-35 on such a bill by De León, while Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom has proposed background checks as part of a 2016 ballot measure. Neither of the San Bernardino shooters had a criminal record.

Meanwhile, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) said Friday that he would introduce state legislation that would ban the sale of guns and some chemicals to people on a federal government’s anti-terrorist “no-fly” list of people restricted from commercial flights.

“I don’t think someone on a terrorist watch-list should be allowed to purchase any firearms,” Gatto said. Neither shooter in the San Bernardino massacre was on the list, but Gatto said it would help weed out potential misuse of guns.

A similar proposal has bogged down in Congress, as has a proposal to fund research into gun violence prevention.

State Sen. Richard Pan (D-Sacramento) said he was considering a bill to have the state fund such research.

Twitter: @mcgreevy99

Times staff writer Richard Winton in San Bernardino contributed to this report.


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