Gun control plans hint at historic Capitol debate

6:59 PM, Feb 7, 2013   |    comments
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For a state that's generally considered to have very strict gun laws on the books, activists on both sides of the debate are bracing for a big fight in California this year, with arguments of common sense to constitutional rights sure to be invoked.

Democrats in the state Senate unveiled a package of sweeping proposals on Thursday, ranging from an attempt to strictly limit the rapid fire of semi-automatic rifles to an attempt to require Californians in possession of large ammunition clips to turn them over to authorities.

"The gun industry, frankly, has a love/hate relationship with California," said Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento.  "They hate our existing gun laws, which are already among the toughest existing in the country.  But they love our marketplace."

Steinberg and his fellow Democrats said at a Capitol news conference that gun makers have found loopholes in the state's existing gun laws, ones their new bills are designed to close.

"Resolutions to act often wither," said Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, on hand to lend support to the legislation.  "This time, we cannot, we will not, let that happen."

The Senate Democratic portfolio is comprised of ten bills, though there are several other high profile efforts also pending in the Assembly.

The Senate bills include a re-introduction of the "bullet button" ban that failed in 2012; a ban on a shotgun-rifle combination weapon known as a 'Circuit Judge'; and efforts to require a permit to buy ammunition and to help fund gun collection from prohibited persons -- both publicized in recent weeks.

But two other proposals will get some of the most intense attention... and debate.  One would attempt to fully restrict the sale of any semi-automatic, assault style rifle whose ammunition magazine can be removed.  Current state law addresses the same issue, but Senate leader Steinberg says gun makers have found ways to adhere to the letter of the law, but still give gun owners a way to switch out magazines.

"The industry is very adept at exploiting the fine print," said Steinberg.

The other proposal that will be closely watched would ban possession of ammunition magazines or clips that can hold more than 10 rounds.  That includes, say staffers, the removal of a 'grandfather' clause in the law for those magazines currently in the hands of Californians.  In other words, the existing devices would be required to be turned in... and possession would ostensibly be considered a crime.

The proposals, within hours of being made public, became a rallying cry for gun rights advocates.

"Every one of them will affect law abiding citizens' Second Amendment rights in ways that have never been affected before," said Sam Paredes of the Gun Owners of California.

"99.9 percent of all citizens who own guns will never break the law. And to blame them for the .01 percent of those who will break the law is unconscionable."

Senate leaders said they hoped to move quickly on the bills, though such fast-tracking generally takes a supermajority vote, something Democrats could have trouble mustering if some legislators find themselves uncomfortable with the proposals.

And even if the proposals make it through both houses of the Legislature, it's unclear where Gov. Jerry Brown stands.  Brown offered a sympathetic stance to gun rights activists in some instances while serving as California's attorney general.  But he's also shown a general willingness to go along with Democratic legislators in the bills sent to his desk in 2011 and 2012.


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