California Senate passes series of gun, ammunition bills
By Tom Verdin
05/30/2013 09:46:18 AM PDT
SACRAMENTO -- Invoking the image of recent mass shootings, Democrats in the state Legislature on Wednesday passed a series of firearms bills designed to reduce the chances for widespread carnage even as opponents warned that the measures would not keep weapons from those intent on committing horrific crimes.
Among other changes, the bills that passed between the Senate and the Assembly would expand the list of people who are prohibited from owning firearms, require permits and a fee when buying ammunition, and ban semi-automatic rifles with detachable ammunition magazines.
Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who pushed the ban on detachable magazines, said the bills would close loopholes in existing laws, keep firearms away from dangerous people and strengthen requirements for gun ownership.
He said banning rifles that can be reloaded quickly with detachable magazines would not end gun violence but that it would help.
"How many lives will we save? I would bet many," he said.
Republican lawmakers said repeatedly that the bills did not address the root of the problem -- mental instability -- and would only hurt law-abiding gun owners if they became law. Sen. Jim Nielsen, R-Gerber, said much of the legislation effectively criminalized legal behavior.
"This will not affect criminals one whit," he said in response to the bill that would require a background check and permit to buy ammunition. "They will get their ammunition. It certainly will disable law-abiding Californians."
The bills were among roughly three dozen that were introduced in the Legislature this year as lawmakers in California and other states sought to respond to the mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado. Other states, including New York, also have approved tough firearms laws this year.
SB47, which prohibits so-called bullet buttons and other devices that gun manufacturers use to circumvent the state's assault weapons ban and allow swift reloading. A similar bill, AB48, passed in the Assembly.
• SB567, which changes the definition of a type of shotgun that is already banned in the state to include a shotgun-rifle combination.
• SB53, which requires ammunition buyers to get a permit, have a background check and pay a fee.
• SB396, which bans ammunition magazines over 10 rounds, including those that people already own.
• SB755, which expands the list of those prohibited from owning weapons to include people convicted of additional drug and alcohol offenses.
• SB683, which expands the requirement for a firearms safety certificate from handguns to rifle purchases.
• SB374, which prohibits the sale, purchase, manufacture, importation or transfer of semi-automatic rifles that can accept detachable magazines.
The state Senate also approved SB293 by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, which would require all newly made or imported handguns in California be "smart guns," digitally personalized so only their owners can fire them. This would take effect 18 months after the state Attorney General makes a finding that such firearms are available for retail sale and meet performance criteria specified in the bill.
But these Senate bills may face a tougher time ahead.
Steve Woolpert, a politics professor and dean of the School of Liberal Arts at St. Mary's College, said the Assembly -- like most state legislatures' lower houses -- over-represents rural areas compared to urban areas, "so it's fair to say there would be more opposition in the Assembly, particularly to the most stringent measures."
Woolpert also said he'd be surprised if Gov. Jerry Brown is happy about the prospect of these bills reaching his desk.
"I don't think he wants to be on the far end in either direction -- there are a few things where he will go against the grain, but the Legislature as it's now constituted is predisposed to be further to the left than Jerry