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Brown Signs Six Gun Control Bills, Vetoes Five

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Gun rights advocates watch the Senate debates just outside the chambers.

Ben Adler / Capital Public Radio

Ben Adler Discusses The Gun Bills


Update at 10:45am: Gov. Jerry Brown is known for being unpredictable. He likes to defy labels. He proved that penchant again Friday in his actions on 11 gun control bills that the California Legislature sent him Thursday.


He signed six bills, including measures to regulate ammunition and ban possession of high-capacity magazines. He vetoed five others, such as bills that would have expanded gun violence restraining orders and limited gun purchases to one per person, per month.

"My goal in signing these bills is to enhance public safety by tightening our existing laws in a responsible and focused manner, while protecting the rights of law-abiding gun owners," Brown said in a signing statement.

Here's a rundown of what each of the bills passed Thursday by legislative Democrats would do, and how the governor acted:

Ammo sales (SB 1235): Ammunition sellers would need licenses and buyers would be entered into a state database for background checks, under this bill. Supporters say ammunition sales are essentially unregulated, and this measures will fix that. Opponents argue it will add bureaucracy and cost, but won’t reduce violent crime, because criminals will buy ammo on the black market. SIGNED.

The bill has also exposed tension between its author, Senate Leader Kevin de León and Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, who are both Democrats. Newsom has qualified a gun control initiative for the November ballot, which would regulate ammunition sales, as well as adopting similar provisions to other bills voted on Thursday. De León had asked Newsom to hold the initiative off the ballot, if the bills pass, while Newsom has refused.

The two measures address background checks differently. The Newsom initiative would require buyers to obtain permits, similar to firearms permits, while De León’s bill would require a driver’s license check, which is then sent to the Department of Justice after the purchase.

De León amended his bill so that, if Newsom’s initiative passes, the Senate measure would take precedence.


Ban possession of high-capacity magazines (SB 1446): Owners of magazines that hold more than 10 rounds would have to sell them out of state or to licensed firearms dealers, turn them over to police, or destroy them within a year. The state already bans the sale of these magazines, but supporters of the bill say they remain too prevalent and easy for criminals to obtain. Opponents say these types of magazines are used for sport shooting. The bill exempts retired law enforcement officers from the ban. SIGNED.

Bullet button ban (SB 880/AB 1135): California already bans the sale of rifles that have detachable magazines—where pushing a button with a finger can dislodge the weapon’s magazine. Gun manufacturers have instead added “bullet buttons,” which still allow the magazine to slide out, but require the tip of a bullet or another pointed object to access it. The bill includes weapons with “bullet buttons” in the detachable magazine ban. SIGNED BOTH.

One gun purchase per month (AB 1674): The bill allows the purchase in California of no more than one rifle each month. The state has a similar law currently on the books for handguns, but private sales or transfers of handguns do not count against the one per month limit. The bill removes that exemption, but allows more than one purchase of a firearm at charity auctions or as a bequest when the previous owner has died. VETOED. In his veto message, the governor noted that California already limits handgun purchases to one per person, per month. "I believe this bill would have the effect of burdening lawful citizens who wish to sell certain firearms that they no longer need," Brown wrote. "Given California's stringent laws restricting gun ownership, I do not believe this additional restriction is needed."


Gun lending (AB 1511): Parents, children, grand children, spouses and domestic partners could loan guns to each other, but not to anyone else, under this bill. Currently, California allows “person who are personally known to each other” to lend weapons for less than 30 days. SIGNED.

Guns with some assembly required (AB 857/AB 1673): Buying a gun in California requires a background check, but buying a gun’s parts does not. The bill defines a gun’s frame or casting as a firearm, so their purchase would require the same steps as purchasing a completed gun. The frame would have to have a registration number and the purchaser would need to undergo a background check. Opponents say the change could lead to unintended consequences, such as arrests for openly carrying a disassembled part of a weapon. The governor VETOED AB 1673. The Assembly did not send him AB 857, so Brown took no action on that bill. In his veto message on AB 1673, the governor wrote the bill is worded so vaguely that it "could have far reaching and unintended consequences," such as triggering "potential application of myriad and serious criminal penalties."

Gun restraining orders (AB 2607): Family members and police can already ask a court for a restraining order that prevents a person from owning a gun. The bill would add co-workers. Courts have to hold a hearing about the restraining order within three weeks. Supporters say employees who work together may see the warning signs for violence, and the bill would give them the opportunity to act. Opponents say those people can already go to law enforcement to ask them to seek a restraining order. VETOED. In his veto message, the governor noted that while he signed legislation creating gun violence restraining orders, the law only took effect this year and it "would be premature to enact a further expansion." 


Falsely reporting lost or stolen guns (AB 1695): The bill would make it a misdemeanor to falsely report a gun as stolen and also ban the person who reports it from buying another firearm for 10 years. Supporters of the bill say it’s an effort to stop people who sell guns on the black market, after buying them legally and then reporting the weapons stolen. SIGNED.

Failure to report lost or stolen guns (SB 894): Falsely reporting a gun lost or stolen would be a misdemeanor with harsh consequences (as mentioned above), but so would not reporting a weapon that has actually been stolen. This bill would fine gun owners who do not report their weapons stolen or lost within five days of when they know or “reasonably should have known.” The first fine would be $100, a second offense $1,000, and a third offense would be a misdemeanor with fines and possible jail time.  The Senate has to vote one more time to concur on the bill. VETOED. In his veto message, the governor wrote that he had vetoed similiar measures in 2012 and 2013. "I continue to believe that responsible people report the loss or theft of a firearm and irresponsible people do not," Brown wrote, adding "it is not likely that this bill would change that."

Punishment for theft (AB 1176): Proposition 47 turned theft of items under $950 into a misdemeanor, and that includes guns. The measure would make theft of a firearm a felony and purchasing a stolen firearm a wobbler, meaning it can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. Both offenses would also prohibit the person convicted from buying a gun for 10 years. Because the bill would change a voter-approved initiative, it has to, itself, receive voter approval. If Governor Brown signs the bill, it will appear on the November ballot. VETOED. In his veto statement, the governor wrote the bill is "nearly identical" to an initiative already slated for the November ballot and should only appear before voters once.

Original story: Few states have moved forward with gun control legislation after the June 12 Pulse Nightclub massacre in Orlando. Now, California is one of them. Lawmakers sent 12 bills to Gov. Jerry Brown Thursday, which a gun rights group called the “gunpocalypse.”

These bills were in the works at the state Capitol long before the Orlando nightclub shootings. Lawmakers introduced the measures earlier this year, in part because of last fall's San Bernardino shootings. But Orlando brought even more intensity.

“They need to wash their mouths – because they are filthy!” Democratic state Sen. Isadore Hall said of gun rights lobbyists two days after the shootings.

That prompted one of the lobbyists to call those remarks “beyond the pale.”

The debate in the Democratic-controlled Legislature culminated Thursday with passions reaching new heights.

“We have assault weapons bans, and we have waiting lists, and we have gun-free zones, and we do this and we do that and we do the other thing – and we keep finding ourselves surprised when bad guys do bad things with guns!” said Republican Asm. Donald Wagner.

“The killer sprayed that night club with bullets, said Democratic Senate President pro Tem Kevin de León. How could someone filled with so much hate have such easy access to ammunition?”

In the end, all 12 bills brought up for votes on Thursday passed – from requiring background checks on ammunition to limiting gun purchases to one per person, per month.

The Legislature then rushed the bills down to Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown’s office. On Friday, he’s expected to sign some and veto some – or, as Brown has often put it, paddle a little to the left and a little to the right.

 gun control

Ben Adler

Capitol Bureau Chief

Capitol Bureau Chief Ben Adler first became a public radio listener in the car on his way to preschool – though not necessarily by choice. Now, he leads Capital Public Radio’s state Capitol coverage, which airs on NPR stations across California.  Read Full Bio 

Ben Bradford

State Government Reporter

As the State Government Reporter, Ben covers California politics, policy and the interaction between the two. He previously reported on local and state politics, business, energy, and environment for WFAE in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Read Full Bio