Tougher Gun Control Laws on the Horizon in California

Posted on 20 December 2012

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By Christopher Allen
California Progress Report

Following the horrific mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., a number of California lawmakers are pressing forward with legislation to clamp down on the regulation of certain types of firearms, ammunition or gun magazine technology in the Golden State.

Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) has reintroduced legislation that would ban the use of "bullet button" or "mag magnet" magazines that allow the rapid replacement of empty gun magazines with full ones by the pressing of a button. The bill would also prohibit the sale and use of add-on kits that would enable the use of high-capacity magazines.

Yee also announced that he will introduce additional legislation that would require the yearly registration of guns, with regular background checks, and another bill that would strengthen gun safety measures.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times reports that Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) has proposed that regulating access to ammunition, by requiring background checks and the issuance of yearly permits, would be an effective measure for preventing future gun-related crime. Other lawmakers have likewise weighed in on the need for public safety considerations to inform gun ownership laws in the wake of last week's tragic events.

"While we cannot stop every senseless act of gun violence, surely we can strengthen our laws to limit such tragedies in the future," said Sen. Yee. "These bills, as well as the ammunition bill authored by Senator Kevin De Leon and the school safety bill by Senator Ted Lieu, will help make our communities safer."

On the Republican side of the aisle, Sen. Ted Gaines (R-Roseville) has proposed a lifetime ban on gun ownership for anyone determined by a court to be dangerous due to a mental illness or disorder.

California a Gun Control Leader, but Still Has Room for Improvement

As noted by the San Francisco Chronicle, California is already consistently ranked at the top of the list of states when it comes to strict gun control laws:

California already has a long list of restrictions on gun ownership, and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which works for stronger restrictions on guns nationwide, consistently ranks the state as having the strongest gun laws in the nation, by far.

Those laws include background checks on gun sales, limits on the frequency of purchasing handguns, and required fingerprinting of gun purchasers.

But, according to the Sacramento Bee:

Democratic Assemblyman Roger Dickinson of Sacramento countered that the key issue is not the number of existing gun-control laws but the degree of public safety provided - and California has room to improve, he said.

CalSTRS Pressure Leads to Sale of Gun Manufacturer

In related news, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer earlier this week called upon state agencies to examine their investment holdings and divest any companies that manufacture firearms that are illegal under California law. The same day, the California State Teachers' Retirement System (CalSTRS) - where Lockyer sits upon the board of directors - announced it was reviewing its portfolio. As reported by the Sacramento Bee, this seems to have led to Cerberus Capital Management's announcement yesterday that it would sell its ownership of Freedom Group, Inc., the manufacturer of the Bushmaster rifle used in the Newtown incident.

CalSTRS, the California State Teachers' Retirement System, owns 2.4 percent of Freedom Group through its stake in Cerberus holdings. It said it was pleased with Cerberus' decision.

"They're doing what we want them to do," said CalSTRS spokesman Ricardo Duran.

The gun industry, particularly Cerberus, increasingly found itself on the defensive Tuesday. Gun manufacturers' stock prices fell for a third straight day.

With gun manufacturers currently facing the wrong side of public opinion, changes in the industry may be inevitable if lawmakers follow through on the current reform wave. Furthermore, a combination of Democrats' new supermajority status in the California Legislature and the public shock and outcry following the Newtown killings could spur a raft of tighter gun laws in the state in the coming weeks, noted observers.

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California's crime rate is above the nation's rate. Furthermore, there are pockets (such as San Bernardino and LA) where the crime rate is very high. It seems reasonable to me, if the state can't control crime, that the private individual needs to defend himself.