Updated 12:44 p.m.
The California state Legislature has sent a package of gun control bills to Governor Jerry Brown. The bills regulate sale of ammunition, ban more types of semiautomatic rifles and add punishments for lost and stolen guns.
Here's a rundown:
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.
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.
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.
One rifle 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 firearms more than one purchase of a firearm at charity auctions or as a bequest when the previous owner has died.
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.
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.
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.
LOST AND STOLEN GUNS
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.
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.
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.
-Ben Bradford, Capital Public Radio News
A wide-ranging package of gun control measures could become law in California as soon as Thursday. State lawmakers are expected to vote on bills that include new ammunition regulations, a ban on large-capacity magazines and a limit on gun purchases to one per person, per month.
Capital Public Radio's Ben Adler says about a dozen of the bills will come up in both the Assembly and Senate. They're expected to pass and will immediately be sent down to Gov. Jerry Brown's desk. He is expected to act on the bills before he leaves for vacation Friday.
"Now, that doesn’t mean he’ll sign them all – he may well veto some of them – but he is expected to act on them very quickly," says Adler.
Some lawmakers hope Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom will pull his gun control initiative off the November ballot if these bills become law. Newsom’s camp says that won’t happen. The deadline to withdraw a November ballot measure is midnight.
Follow Capital Public Radio's coverage of these bills.
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