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California Lawmaker Promises Action On Gun Control

A makeshift shrine honors the victims of a elementary school shooting that happened Friday in Newtown, Conn.
Emmanuel Dunand
A makeshift shrine honors the victims of a elementary school shooting that happened Friday in Newtown, Conn.

A California lawmaker said Monday that he will introduce gun control legislation aimed at strengthening the state's restrictions in the wake of the mass shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut.

Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, said he is considering broader changes to state law on everything from the background checks required to purchase weapons to storage regulations.

Overview Of California's Gun Safety Laws

  • The State of California has enacted some of the strongest gun laws in the nation. Unlike most states, for example, California:
  • Requires all gun sales to be processed through a licensed dealer, requiring a background check;
  • Requires gun dealers to obtain a state license;
  • Bans most assault weapons and 50 caliber rifles, and prohibits the sale or transfer of large capacity ammunition magazines;
  • Requires handgun purchasers to obtain a license, after passing a written test;
  • Regulates gun shows;
  • Limits handgun purchases to one per person per month;
  • Prohibits the sale of “unsafe handguns” not on the roster of approved handguns;
  • Imposes a ten-day waiting period prior to the sale or transfer of a firearm;
  • Maintains permanent records of firearm sales;
  • Gives local law enforcement discretion to deny a license to carry a concealed weapon; and
  • Gives local governments authority to regulate firearms and ammunition, although the state legislature has expressly removed this authority in certain areas.
  • In addition, in 2007, California became the first jurisdiction in the nation to require handgun microstamping.

Yee, who is a child psychologist, said he hopes the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., which killed 20 young children, will lead to greater support for closing what he called loopholes in existing state law.


"We must reinstate the federal assault weapon ban and close the bullet button loophole that has severely weakened California's assault weapon ban," Yee said in a statement.

The so-called bullet button loophole allows gun manufacturers to sell weapons in California with magazines that can be removed and replaced quickly using a simple tool known as a "bullet button." The buttons get around the state's ban on detachable magazines that can be used to swiftly reload a rifle or shotgun.

A second lawmaker, Sen. Ted Lieu, D-Torrance, announced plans Monday to reintroduce legislation aimed at forcing schools to be better prepared for emergency situations such as a gunman on the loose. Lieu said data from 2009 showed that more than half of public middle schools in Los Angeles either had no safety plan, had an outdated plan, or had failed to review the plans with school staff.

"The Legislature has a responsibility to do what it can to ensure basic safety requirements are enforced in our schools," Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, who signed on as a co-author, said in a statement. "Many schools have good plans in place, but that's not enough. The safety of our children demands 100 percent compliance."

On the gun control legislation, Yee said he is examining changes including requiring more background checks, mental health evaluations, limits on the amount of ammunition that can be purchased and additional requirements that would demand gun owners to safely store their weapons.


"Our response to Friday's massacre and other senseless acts of gun violence throughout America must be comprehensive and address mental well-being, societal problems, and common sense gun control," he said.

Friday's attacks left 28 people dead, with the shooter and his mother among the eight adults killed, police say. Police say the gunman, Adam Lanza, was carrying an arsenal of ammunition and used a high-powered rifle similar to the military's M-16.

In California, Yee attempted to pass legislation earlier this year in the wake of the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., but that legislation died in the state Assembly. Yee's effort also came late in the legislative session and before the November elections, in which Democrats secured a two-thirds majority in both houses for the first time in decades.

"We've always lost some Democrats on gun control bills," said Yee's spokesman, Adam Keigwin. "Now we can afford to still lose some Democrats and still hopefully pass it."

Attorney General Kamala Harris, a Democrat, backed Yee's earlier legislation. She did not immediately take a position on Yee's still unwritten proposal on Monday, but her spokeswoman, Lynda Gledhill, said Harris supports "efforts to close dangerous loopholes in our assault weapons law."

Groups such as the California Nurses Association and the California Medical Association also have supported stricter gun controls.

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said Sunday that she will introduce legislation next year to ban new assault weapons, as well as big clips, drums and strips of more than 10 bullets.

"It can be done," Feinstein told NBC's "Meet the Press" of reinstating the ban despite deep opposition by the powerful National Rifle Association and similar groups.

At a Sunday night service in Newtown, President Barack Obama did not specifically address gun control. But he vowed, "In the coming weeks I'll use whatever power this office holds to engage my fellow citizens, from law enforcement to mental health professionals to parents and educators in an effort aimed at preventing more tragedies like this."

Lieu's legislation would impose stricter penalties for schools that fail to comply with state laws requiring them to have a robust emergency plan. Under his proposal, the state could withhold some funding to schools that fail to comply, the names of such schools without adequate emergency plans would be published on a public website and school safety plans would be required to "specifically address active shooter situations."