California Democrats advance gun control bills after Orlando

Democrats in the California Senate plan another attempt to outlaw the sale of assault rifles with easily detachable ammunition magazines known as bullet buttons. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli,File)

SACRAMENTO — Democrats on a California legislative panel voted Tuesday to advance a dozen proposed gun control measures, including one that requires people to turn in or destroy magazines capable of holding more than 10 bullets.

The bills were all in the works before the weekend massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, but supporters of the measures say the shooting highlights the urgency of tightening California gun laws that are already among the toughest in the nation.

“There’s no time to be lackadaisical on this issue,” said Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles. “Forty-nine people were massacred, were mowed down quite easily with high-powered weapons, so it gives us more of a sense of urgency.”

The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved the high-capacity magazine ban in a party-line vote, with Republicans opposed. The committee also voted to ban rifles with devices known as bullet buttons that allow a shooter to quickly switch out magazines.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee voted to limit rifle purchases to one a month.

The assailant in Orlando, Omar Mateen, purchased an AR-15-style rifle and a handgun on separate days from a federally licensed dealer near his home in Fort Pierce, Florida. Police have not disclosed the capacity of the magazines used, but Florida law does not restrict the size of magazines that can be sold.

Gun-rights advocates say the Legislature’s crackdown would deprive California gun owners of their constitutional rights without preventing determined criminals from getting access to weapons.

“What the Legislature did was take advantage of yet another tragedy in order to advance an agenda that harms citizens,” said Craig DeLuz, legislative advocate for the gun rights group Firearms Policy Coalition. “Every time they seek to disarm citizens they make victims out of them.”

High-ranking California Democrats have clashed over how to adopt stricter gun laws.

Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom is promoting a November ballot measure that would enact many of the same policies the Legislature is considering. De Leon prefers legislative action, fearing an initiative would motivate conservative voters and get defeated at the ballot box.

Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown has been reluctant to create new criminal offenses and vetoed several gun control bills in recent years.

California in 1999 outlawed the sale of new magazines capable of holding more than 10 rounds but allowed people to keep any they already had.

SB1446, which has already cleared the Senate and was approved Tuesday in the Assembly Public Safety Committee, would require people with grandfathered magazines to surrender, destroy or remove them from the state or risk a fine.

“It is very clear to me that when a person has to change magazines and cannot fire so many bullets so quickly, people have a chance to escape,” said Amanda Wilcox, a volunteer for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, who said her daughter was killed by a shooter using a high-capacity magazine.

Other legislation advanced Tuesday would require background checks for ammunition purchases.

In addition, firearm owners would have to report lost or stolen firearms to law enforcement; owners of homemade firearms would have to register the weapons and undergo a background check; and law enforcement officials must secure their handguns by locking them in vehicles.

CaliforniaGavin Newsomgun controlgun rightsKevin de LeonOmar MateenOrlando nightclub shootingSacramento

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